Ground breaking experiment lead by a Canadian team of scientists to deliver drugs to the brain using nanoparticles to treat neurodegenerative diseases
MONTREAL and LAVAL, QC, Researchers from the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS) have demonstrated that nanoparticles allow the delivery of drugs to the brain for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
The barrier between the blood and the brain is the main obstacle in the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. According to a recent study , led by Jean-Michel Rabanel, postdoctoral researcher led by Professor Charles Ramassamy, nanoparticles with certain specific properties could cross this barrier and be captured by neuronal cells. The researchers are convinced that these findings will open important perspectives for delivering drugs directly to the brain. This advance would make it possible to improve the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases affecting more than 565,000 Canadians, including 141,000 Quebecers.
“The blood-brain barrier filters harmful substances so that they cannot freely travel to the brain. However, this same barrier also prevents the passage of drugs, ”explains pharmacologist Charles Ramassamy. Usually, the doses administered must be high so that a small fraction of the drug reaches the brain, and what is left in the bloodstream induces significant side effects. This discomfort often causes the patient to stop treatment. Using nanoparticles that encapsulate the drugs would result in fewer peripheral side effects while increasing brain efficiency.
Effective in an animal model
To prove the effectiveness of this method, the research team tested it first in cultured cells, then in zebrafish. “This species offers several advantages. Its blood-brain barrier is similar to that of humans, and its transparent body makes it possible to see the distribution of nanoparticles almost in real time ”, indicates Professor Ramassamy, also holder of the Louise and André Charron Research Chair on the disease. Alzheimer ‘s disease from the Armand-Frappier Foundation.
With these in vivo tests , the researchers were able to observe the passage through the blood-brain barrier. They also confirmed the absence of toxicity of the chosen nanoparticles. “We made the particles with polylactic acid (PLA), a biocompatible material that is easily eliminated by the body. A layer of polyethylene glycol (PEG) covers the nanoparticles and makes them invisible to the immune system so that they can circulate in the blood for longer, ”he explains.
After several years of research on effective and safe nanoparticles, the team of researchers will continue laboratory tests, targeting the administration of active ingredients in other animal models with, ultimately, clinical applications.