French researchers open blood-brain barrier using ultrasound implant


Researchers with French device-maker Carthera said their ultrasound system successfully opened up the blood-brain barrier in recent testing, indicating the device has the potential to create new treatments for brain cancer.

The blood-brain barrier, which bars the passage of certain substances from the blood to the brain, has long posed a challenge to treating many brain disorders.

In a paper published in Science Translational Medicine, the Paris-based clinicians said they were able to repeatedly open up the barrier by using the SonoCloud system that produces pulses of ultrasound targeting the brain. Using magnetic resonance imaging coupled with a microbubble contrast agent allowed them to identify which acoustic pressure levels are optimal for keeping the barrier open. 

Making the blood vessels in the brain temporarily permeable with the use of ultrasound allows for increased delivery of therapeutic molecules, including chemotherapy drugs, which generally have little brain penetration, the company said. The test could open up new avenues to major therapeutic possibilities not only for brain cancers, but also for neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

“It will allow us to start working on subsequent clinical developments with a view to marketing the device,” Frédéric Sottilini, CEO of CarThera, said in a release. “SonoCloud could be commercially available in 2020 for use in recurrent glioblastoma; with CE marking and FDA approval obtained in the meantime.”

In the test, the device’s tolerability and safety profile was reported as good, since it uses low intensity ultrasound similar to a diagnostic or imaging level. 

About 250,000 patients globally are diagnosed with a brain tumor each year, representing a market worth about $1.7 billion, according to company estimates.

Last month, researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina said they identified a lipid nanocarrier small enough to bypass the barrier and potentially deliver chemotherapy more efficiently to the brain.

- here’s the release

Related Articles:
Nanocarrier crosses blood-brain barrier, could treat brain cancer