Blood-brain barrier vs. focused ultrasound with MRI guidance

Researchers at the University of Virginia are exploring ways to break through the blood-brain barrier using MRI-guided focused ultrasound.

The neurological conditions for which they’re hoping to open new treatment pathways include brain tumors, stroke, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease, according to an item posted by UVA’s newsroom.

The piece presents insights into the work from biomedical engineer Richard Price, PhD, who says the combination of focused ultrasound with MRI guidance would allow treating clinicians to home in on, say, 5% of the brain.

The other 95%, “we don’t even touch. Then, when we apply the focused ultrasound, it opens the barrier there for a few hours.”

This would give clinicians plenty of time for precise administration of treatments like gene therapy, and the targeted brain section would close naturally, Price says.

“The blood-brain barrier is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, challenge to drug delivery for the central nervous system,” he adds. “Evolution gave us this barrier because the central nervous system needs to be protected. The problem is now we want to deliver something to those cells and evolution has had millions and millions of years to optimize a solution to stop it. I’m attempting to circumvent biology with physics.”

The research has run in several journals, according to UVA. To read the rest of the school’s news item, click here.