Researchers crack blood-brain barrier to treat tumors

We've discussed before how that blood-brain barrier may be nature's way of protecting our minds from harmful viruses, but it's also a tough barrier to break for scientists trying to find ways to cure diseases there. The Los Angeles Times has an excellent report on new research into breaching that barrier from Chang Gung University in Taiwan.

The researchers, led by Kuo-Chen Wei, injected nanosize magnetic beads coated with a chemotherapy drug, into the rats' tails. Ultrasound opens up a small part of the blood-brain barrier and they use a magnetic field to lure the particles to an exact location in the brain.

The technique successfully slowed tumor growth in the treated rats. "The technology's not very difficult," Wei brags to the LA Times, "but the idea is novel."

Well, not so fast, says University of Michigan drug delivery researcher Allan David. "The potential for toxicity in normal brain regions could cause all kinds of problems," he told the Times. "I think it's an interesting study, but it's still far from clinical studies." Talk to me, he says, when they use a drug that's activated only when it reaches the tumor.

- read the LA Times story