Magnetic particles carry drugs across blood-brain barrier

Researchers in the US have developed a technique that can deliver and fully release the anti-HIV drug AZTTP into the brain.

The technique, developed at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM), is described in Nature Communications.

Madhavan Nair, professor and chair, and Sakhrat Khizroev, professor of electrical and computer engineering and vice chair of the HWCOM’s Department of Immunology, used magneto-electric nanoparticles (MENs) to cross the blood-brain barrier and send up to 97 per cent more AZTTP to HIV-infected cells.

The blood-brain barrier is a natural filter that allows very few substances to pass through to the brain, including many medicines.

Currently, more than 99 per cent of the antiretroviral therapies used to treat HIV, such as AZTTP, are deposited in the liver, lungs and other organs before they reach the brain.

In laboratory models, the new technique uses magneto-electric nanoparticles to deliver a significantly higher level of AZTTP.

‘This allows a virus, such as AIDS, to lurk unchecked,’ said Nair, an HIV/immunology researcher.

The patent-pending technique binds the drug to a MEN inserted into a monocyte/macrophage cell, which is then injected into the body and drawn to the brain.

Once it has reached the brain, a low energy electrical current triggers a release of the drug, which is then guided to its target with magnetoelectricity.

In lab experiments, nearly all of the therapy reached its intended target. It will soon enter the next phase of testing.

Potentially, this method of delivery could help other patients who suffer from neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, meningitis and chronic pain. It could also be applicable to diseases such as cancer.

‘We see this as a multifunctional therapy,’ Khizroev said in a statement.