Research Breakthrough in Bypassing the Blood-Brain Barrier

Many people who suffer from Alzheimer's disease, head trauma, stroke, or Parkinson's disease may not be receiving the best medications. Unfortunately, many times, while less effective drugs have been able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, the most effective drugs many times cannot and are therefore not used. Consequently, researchers have been seeking more effective ways to deliver drugs to the central nervous system and the brain itself.

Dr. William Frey, Ph.D., director of Alzheimer's Research for Regions Hospital and the HealthPartners Research Foundation, has been working for the past 13 years on developing a drug delivery system that will bypass the blood-brain barrier and deliver therapeutic agents directly to the brain and the central nervous system. The method is an intranasal delivery system, using the olfactory and trigeminal nerve pathways (located within the upper nasal cavity). These nerve fibers are responsible for sensing odors and chemicals, and according to Dr. Frey, are capable of carrying therapeutic agents directly to the brain and spinal cord.

In bypassing the blood-brain barrier, through these pathways, therapeutic agents can be delivered without being modified and without the need for a carrier. With this direct delivery system, therapeutic actions can be faster and more effective with reduced side effects, as the drug is delivered directly to the brain and does not have to travel through the bloodstream.

"Being able to bypass the blood-brain barrier provides a huge advantage for treating people that suffer from a stroke, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or head or spinal cord injury," said Dr. Frey. "Preclinical studies suggest, for example, that intranasal delivery of antioxidants or of natural therapeutic proteins may be able to dramatically reduce brain damage and improve neurologic function after stroke."

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