It’s safe to say that the brain is a pretty important organ and, as such, is deserving of a significant amount of protection.
Aside from the more obvious physical armour – the skin, the thick bone of the skull – there exists a blood–brain barrier (BBB), a gate-keeping vascular structure which regulates the traffic of substances passing between your circulatory system and your brain. In short, it decides what gets in, and what doesn’t.
As grateful for this as you should be, it is also responsible for the low efficacy of drugs targeting the brain and central nervous system. Recognised as foreign entities and therefore potential threats, they aren’t allowed through the BBB in amounts sufficient to ensure a successful therapeutic outcome. To compensate, the body must be flooded with high concentrations of a drug, leading to significant negative side-effects.
Drug carriers capable of easily crossing the BBB are being explored by a team working across locations in South Korea and the USA. These researchers have produced what they call ‘theranostic photonic nanoparticles’ from a core of photonic moieties and a surface coating of Pluronic (F-127), which has been shown to facilitate migration across the BBB. These biocompatible molecular nanoparticles can not only deliver their cargo beyond this wall: their photonic cores can also be traced, leading to their use not just for drug delivery but also for diagnosis, monitoring, and real-time tracking.
The authors demonstrate the capabilities of their multifunctional agents using an aggressive tumour model (glioblastoma multiforme). Check out the results in Advanced Functional Materials.