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Delivering drugs to the brain: New research into targeted treatment of Alzheimer's
Date:12/7/2010

Troy, N.Y. Pankaj Karande, a Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, is among a new generation of scientists and engineers developing exciting and novel new techniques to treat some of the most complex brain illnesses, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, traumatic brain injury, and brain cancer. His research has already attracted the interest of the Goldhirsh Foundation and now has garnered the support of the Alzheimer's Association with an additional $80,000 in research funding.

Karande's research seeks to open the natural and protective barriers that exist in the brain to allow for the targeted delivery of drugs into the brain. Such drug delivery systems could limit the side effects experienced by patients using existing drugs to treat brain illness, increase the effectiveness of current drug treatments, lead to the development of new drugs, and even allow drugs that previously failed in clinical trials to be reconsidered utilizing new delivery methods.

"You can have the best and most promising of drugs, but if it doesn't go where it is needed, then it won't be effective," Karande said. "There are a lot of new discoveries within the area of drug development, even related to treatment of Alzheimer's. There is not a drug discovery problem; drug delivery is really the challenge."

The problem with delivering drugs to the brain is that the brain is exceptionally good at keeping out foreign substances. The main obstacle to entry is called the blood-brain barrier. Blood vessels within the brain are lined with "Velcro-like" cells that interlock so tightly that very little is allowed to pass through into the system.

But entry is not impossible, according to Karande. "There are more blood vessels in the brain than anywhere else in the body. The supply lines are there, we simply need to understand how to open them."

Karande's hypothesis is that the key to
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Contact: Gabrielle DeMarco
demarg@rpi.edu
518-956-0701
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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