In a first, researchers have engineered small particles, similar to the size of viruses, to cross the protective border separating the circulating blood from the brain, an advance that may pave the way for improved drug delivery to the organ.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, noted that the new method allowed for combination drug delivery through intravenous injection to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB).
The researchers, including those from Newcastle University in the UK, synthesised and modified components from a virus that targets the brain -- a bacteriophage fd -- to deliver drugs across the BBB.
When the "small, hairy particle" that they developed was injected into mice, the system crossed the BBB and targeted the brain, reaching neurons and other special brain cells, the study noted.
According to the researchers, most drugs are excluded from the brain by the protective blood-brain-barrier, and current treatment options aimed at crossing this barrier were risky.
"Crossing the blood-brain-barrier has hindered the industry from effectively addressing central nervous system diseases, including brain tumours, and many neurological diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's," said Moein Moghimi, lead author of the study from Newcastle University.
However, he added that some viruses have found ways to bypass the BBB and enter the brain.
"We are very excited by our research - our delivery system is versatile and amenable to modifications, so, in principle, we can hopefully address shortfalls in drug delivery to the brain through intravenous injection," said Moghimi.
The new delivery system, based on more than a decade of research, has significant implications for developing drugs that can cross the BBB, and other biological barriers, the researchers said.
The researchers said that the method may open up several opportunities to address neurodegenerative diseases with modern therapeutics.