Delivering drugs directly to the brain via tiny needle

Posted Jan 26, 2018 by Tim Sandle
A novel, miniaturized ultra-thin needle system has the potential to be used to treat specific neurological disorders that affect certain brain regions.
Steven Depolo
The ultra-thin needle, which has been developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, can deliver drugs directly to the brain, ensuring greater accuracy in terms of medicine reaching its target and greater efficacy.
The microfabricated needle is as small as 1 cubic millimeter. To develop the needle, the researchers constructed tubes contained within a stainless steel needle with a diameter of about 150 microns (one micron is one millionth of a meter).
This design aids the injection of very tiny quantities of medicine to specific brain regions . The aim is to develop targeted dosing, which involves delivering medications to very specific brain circuits. By being focused, the process should allow the drug to reach the target without the risks of the medication interfering with the normal function of the rest of the brain.
With conventional treatments, medicines used to treat brain disorders can often interact with brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) or the cell receptors that interact with neurotransmitters, leading to a reduction in the effectiveness of the medicine.
To date the research has only been tested out using an animal model. In a study of rats, the science team discovered that they could deliver targeted doses of a drug that affects the animals’ motor function.
Commenting on the research study, Dr. Antonio Chiocca, who works at the Department of Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (and who provides an independent assessment) is quoted by MIT News: "This study provides proof-of-concept experiments, in large animal models, that a small, miniaturized device can be safely implanted in the brain and provide miniaturized control of the electrical activity and function of single neurons or small groups of neurons. The impact of this could be significant in focal diseases of the brain, such as Parkinson’s disease."
The new research has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The research paper is titled "Miniaturized neural system for chronic, local intracerebral drug delivery."
In related news, researchers have used nanotechnology to improve drug delivery. This is in the form of tailorable nanoscale emulsions which effectively interact with their intended targets (see: "Essential Science: Delivering drugs via nanoscale emulsion.")