Gelatin-based nanoparticles enter brain to treat stroke in crucial time window

South Korean researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have developed a delivery technique that uses bits of gelatin to encapsulate drugs and carry them to the brain without surgery. The method shows promise for stroke patients, extending the window during which treatment can be effective.

The scientists coated the gelatin nanoparticles with the drug osteopontin, which reduces inflammation and prevents brain cell death after a stroke, according to the university. And to get past the ever-present blood-brain barrier, the particles are designed for nasal delivery, giving them a direct route.

What's important about this delivery method is that it allows for a longer amount of time to treat stroke patients before they suffer irreparable brain damage. Normally, a patient needs to recieve treatment within three hours, but the nanoparticles showed in rats to extend this window to about 6 hours with the same efficacy. This is extremely valuable for patients who can't get to the hospital in time.

"Overcoming the difficulty of delivering therapeutic agents to specific regions of the brain presents a major challenge to treatment of most neurological disorders," lead author Hyungsoo Choi said in a statement.  "However, if drug substances can be transferred along the olfactory nerve cells, they can bypass the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain directly."

Gelatin itself is biocompatible and biodegradable and characterized as generally safe by the FDA. And it is especially suited to targeting the brain, as the organ houses many enzymes for which it is a substrate.

The team published its findings in the journal Drug Delivery Translational Research.

- here's the university report
- and here's the abstract