Each drug has its special purpose. Medicines are designed to act on a specific part of your body and yet they have to travel a long way to that part. But now scientists at the ETH Zurich have developed a method for concentrating and releasing drugs in the brain with pinpoint accuracy using focused ultrasound waves.
The problem is that each drug has to travel through a blood stream to reach the desired part of the body. This takes a long time and the drug acts on other parts of the body too, creating undesirable side effects. But what are the options, when it comes to drug delivery in the brain to treat psychiatric and neurological disorders and tumours? Other options are actually quite invasive.
Now scientists developed a method of using ultrasound for a non-invasive and precise drug delivery in the brain. Drugs are wrapped in special spherical lipid vesicles attached to gas-containing ultrasound-sensitive microbubbles. They are injected into the bloodstream, which pushes these drugs to the brain. Then focused ultrasound waves can be used to essentially trap the drugs in the desired site. Very low energy waves are used that do not damage the tissue. Then a higher level of ultrasound is applied, which forces drugs to vibrate, destroying the lipid membranes and releasing the active compounds to act on the nerve tissue precisely in the desired site.
Of course, this method is still not clinically available, but scientists already demonstrate it with rats and it works. Previously tested similar methods did now have the same effectiveness – they couldn’t trap and concentrate drugs locally. This new approach works much better and has many advantages. For example, scientists say that because drugs would only act on the site, lower doses would be acceptable. And, of course, many adverse side effects could be avoided, because the drug would not act on other parts of the body.
Now scientists are testing the effectiveness of their method in animal models of mental illness. They believe this ultra-precise method of drug delivery could be useful for treating anxiety and surgically inaccessible brain tumours. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how this method could benefit people with a huge variety of people with cancer, neurological disorders and psychological conditions.
Before it becomes available for clinical use, scientists will have to test its effectiveness some more, as well as its safety. Ultrasound waves are already being used in medical settings, including on the brain. So hopefully the method is safe and effective and can be implemented fairly quickly.
Source: ETH Zurich