Documenting the Coming Singularity

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sliding past the blood-brain barrier

Editor's Note: As the term implies, the blood-brain barrier is a means by which evolution has successfully protected the brain from certain types of pathogens that may be circulating in the bloodstream. Getting therapeutic objects past this barrier has been an ongoing subject of medical research for some time. This article outlines the successful passage of nanoparticles through this barrier. The therapeutic potential of this feat is hard to fathom. - August 3, 2009

Brain cancer is among the deadliest of cancers. It's also one of the hardest to treat. Imaging results are often imprecise because brain cancers are extremely invasive. Surgeons must saw through the skull and safely remove as much of the tumor as they can. Then doctors use radiation or chemotherapy to destroy cancerous cells in the surrounding tissue.

Researchers at the University of Washington have been able to illuminate brain tumors by injecting fluorescent nanoparticles into the bloodstream that safely cross the blood-brain barrier - an almost impenetrable barrier that protects the brain from infection. The nanoparticles remained in mouse tumors for up to five days and did not show any evidence of damaging the blood-brain barrier, according to results published this week in the journal Cancer Research.

Results showed the nanoparticles improved the contrast in both MRI and optical imaging, which is used during surgery.

"Brain cancers are very invasive, different from the other cancers. They will invade the surrounding tissue and there is no clear boundary between the tumor tissue and the normal brain tissue," said lead author Miqin Zhang, a UW professor of materials science and engineering.

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blood brain barrier said...

The blood brain barrier is generally regarded as an obstacle for treating various brain diseases. Only oxygen and essential nutrition could only pass through the blood brain barrier. But if the researchers have proved successful in this regard then the treatment of brain cancer would not be so complicate as it was considered earlier.