Nano-Devices Developed that Could Cure Several Neurological Disorders
- Published on Wednesday, 23 May 2012 10:34
Cerebral Palsy occurs in 3 out of 1,000 newborns caused by infection or insufficient oxygen to the brain during or after birth. When this happens the brain cells microglia and astrocytes are released to protect the brain. Sometimes these cells can be come overactive and start to destroy healthy cells along with damaged ones, resulting in this and other Neurological disorders.
Treating brain cells has until now been very difficult because of the covering that is meant to prevent bacteria and large objects from entering the cerebrospinal fluid, the blood-brain barrier. It does have very tiny openings in it that allow small hydrophobic molecules to pass through. To successfully administer the drug you must get through the blood-brain barrier, not damage any healthy brain cells and only inject the anti-inflammatory drug damaged cells.
The devices used were tiny man-made molecules with a tree like structure (dendrimer) with attached molecules of the anti-flammatory N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC). The device is 2,000 times smaller than a red blood cell making it possible for it to travel through the blood-brain barrier. They were tested in rabbits with cerebral palsy and tagged with fluorescent tracers for tracking.
The devices successfully entered the brain and were quickly absorbed by the damaging cells.
"In crossing the blood-brain barrier and targeting the cells responsible for inflammation and brain injury, we believe we may have opened the door to new therapies for a wide variety of neurologic disorders that stem from an inflammatory response gone haywire," said lead investigator Sujatha Kannan, now a pediatric critical-care specialist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
The rabbits who were treated showed a significant increase in motor control and coordination, decreased amounts of bad cells, better preserved myelin sheath, less stiffness in their lower extremities and a "higher number of neurons in the regions of the brain responsible for coordination and motor control."
Though these devices are far from being ready for human use, "The findings suggest that the treatment not only reduces inflammation in the cells but may also prevent cell damage and cell death."