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Engineers use short ultrasound pulses to reach neurons through blood-brain barrier
Date:9/19/2011

New York, NYDATE TK, 2011Columbia Engineering researchers have developed a new technique to reach neurons through the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and deliver drugs safely and noninvasively. Up until now, scientists have thought that long ultrasound pulses, which can inflict collateral damage, were required. But in this new study, the Columbia Engineering team show that extremely short pulses of ultrasound waves can open the blood-brain barrierwith the added advantages of safety and uniform molecular delivery and that the molecule injected systemically could reach and highlight the targeted neurons noninvasively.

The study, led by Elisa Konofagou, associate professor of biomedical engineering and radiology, will be published in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of September 19, 2011.

"This is a great step forward," says Konofagou. "Devastating diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's that affect millions of people are currently severely undertreated. We hope our new research will open new avenues in helping eradicate them."

Highly specific delivery of drugs to human organs is essential for the effective treatment of many diseases. But the brain presents a difficult problem: it has a unique vascular systemthe blood-brain barrierthat acts as a closed door to prevent the entry of foreign molecules. While it protects the brain from potentially toxic substances, it also prevents the delivery of therapeutic drugs to the brain. Because many molecules cannot cross the BBB, available treatments for patients with neurological disorders have been severely limited. Konofagou and her team are focused on getting the door opened enough to safely reach those cells that need to be treated.

Konofagou and her team have designed a focused ultrasound method that can target only the area of the hippocampus that is affected in early Alzheimer's. In this study, they administered microbubbles to
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Contact: Holly Evarts
holly@engineering.columbia.edu
212-854-3206
Columbia University
Source:Eurekalert

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