Particle pretends it's iron to slip through blood-brain barrier

The story of drug delivery development these days seems to be increasingly about breaking through that final frontier--the blood-brain barrier. Scientists from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center managed to sneak peptides past the brain's protective barrier by creating a particle that's a kind of master of disguise. It impersonates iron, and then hops onboard the body's iron transport system for a free ride into the brain. Along the way, the researchers say, the disguised particle could be used to deliver imaging agents or treatments.

What the researchers did was identify an "iron-mimic peptide" that hitches a ride on the iron-transporting transferrin protein and receptor complex. This is a potential path to treatment, the authors noted, because its receptor gene is the most overexpressed in human glioblastomas--the most common form of primary brain tumor among adults.

"This particular delivery system can evolve on many fronts, but we think imaging will probably be the first priority," researcher Renata Pasqualini said in a statement. "Brain tumors invade the brain in unpredictable ways, making surgery and targeted therapy a challenge. Ligand-directed imaging based on this technology might improve existing treatment strategies."

Preclinical steps will take about two years before Phase I trials can begin.

- read the MD Anderson Cancer Center release
- or read the full-text article in the Journal of Clinical Investigation