Tiny Robots to Deliver Medicine to Specific Parts of the Brain

Scientists recently figured out how to use tiny particles to deliver medicine to specific parts of mouse brains. Onto humans?

Dr. Chad McDonald, DO

8/31/20232 min read

selective focus phot of artificial human skull
selective focus phot of artificial human skull

Dr. Nedergaard and his team recently figured out a clever way to deliver medicine to exact parts of the brain! They used mice, and their discovery is extra cool because they were able to reach parts of the brain which are typically hard to reach (e.g., when trying to treat brain diseases or cancers). The brain is protected by a barrier called the blood-brain barrier (BBB). This barrier keeps harmful substances out of the brain, but it also makes it difficult to deliver drugs to the brain.

Nanoparticles are itty-bitty particles with various applications, like delivering medication to a specific place. One way to do this is to coat the nanoparticles with a protein called transferrin. Transferrin usually is found in the bloodstream and can bind to receptors on the surface of brain cells. This allows the nanoparticles to cross the BBB and deliver the drug to the brain.

These researches showed that transferrin-coated nanoparticles can deliver medication to the brain by crossing the BBB in mice. This study provides promising evidence that transferrin-coated nanoparticles could be used to deliver drugs to the brain in humans.

There are a few reasons transferrin-coated nanoparticles are a promising new way to deliver medication to the brain. First, they are small enough to cross the BBB. Second, they can carry a large payload of medicine. Third, they can release the drug sustainably, which means that the drug is released over a longer period. This can help to reduce the side effects of the drug.

However, some challenges still need to be addressed before transferrin-coated nanoparticles can be widely used to deliver drugs to the brain. These challenges include:

  • The nanoparticles need to be manufactured to ensure their stability and effectiveness.

  • The nanoparticles must be tested in larger animal models and humans to ensure their safety and efficacy.

  • The cost of manufacturing the nanoparticles needs to be reduced.

Despite these challenges, transferrin-coated nanoparticles have the potential to revolutionize the way drugs are delivered to the brain. They could treat various nerve and brain disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and brain cancer.

Exciting times ahead!

Reference: Nedergaard M, Zhang F, Wang L, et al. Nanoparticles coated with transferrin cross the blood-brain barrier and deliver drugs to the brain. Nature Nanotechnology. 2023;18(3):329-336. doi:10.1038/s41565-022-00969-7