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Thursday, 26 January 2023

The future of nanomaterials for central nervous system diseases treatment

by Virginia Greco

Experts in various branches of nanomedicine discuss recent developments and provide their vision about the future of the field in a Roadmap article published in the 'Journal of Physics, Materials'. Researchers from the ICN2 Nanostructured Functional Materials Group and the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona contributed a section dedicated to the use of nanoparticles as carriers for drug delivery in Parkinson’s disease treatments.

Despite the effort put into developing new treatments for pathologies of the central nervous system, advances are still slow. Among the various obstacles to such progress is the presence of a blood-brain barrier (BBB), which is a very selective membrane that allows only nutrients and few other molecules to pass from the blood vessels to the nervous system fluids. While it is very useful, since it restricts the passage of pathogens and other solutes that could impair the brain functioning, it also prevents the delivery of potentially effective drugs and makes accessibility to, and treatment of, the central nervous system one of the most significant challenges in medicine.

In a Roadmap article, recently published in the Journal of Physics: Materials, some of the most promising studies and approaches aimed at overcoming this problem are presented, focusing on those that rely on nanotechnology and the remarkable properties of nanomaterials. The paper is composed of an introduction and nine contributions by experts in different disciplines who share their viewpoint and present possible solutions. It does not try to be a comprehensive review article, but rather an up-to-date and forward-looking summary of research methodologies pertaining to the treatment of pathologies at the level of the central nervous system.

One of these contributions, titled “Nanoparticle-based  developments for Parkinson’s disease treatment” is signed by Dr Fernando Novio (ICN2 and UAB), Prof. Julia Lorenzo (UAB) and Prof. Daniel Ruiz-Molina (ICN2, leader of the Nanostructured Functional Materials Group), who discuss the use of nanoparticles as drug carriers for the treatment of the Parkinson’s disease.

This disease is caused by a brain deficiency of dopamine (DA), one of the main neurotransmitters active in the central nervous system. Oral or intravenous administration of dopamine is not effective because of the aforementioned blood-brain barrier. However, the use of nanoparticles encapsulating dopamine –or, in general, other drugs against diseases of the central nervous system— strongly facilitates the crossing of the BBB and, in addition, allows controlled drug release over time, better targeting, and delivery to the brain of combined medicaments.

Another novel approach is intranasal administration, which allows bypassing the BBB since drugs can reach the brain through nerves. In this context, as well, nanocarriers can play an important role, since they promote drug release while reducing side-effects. The authors of this contribution, who are working on the development of “nanoplatforms” for intranasal administration and controlled release of dopamine into the brain, provide an overview of the problems to be tackled, discussing challenges and opportunities. Research is making great progress in this field, but further studies and clinical trials are still needed for this approach to translate into actual clinical practice.

Reference article:

Gianni Ciofani et al., Roadmap on Nanomedicine for the Central Nervous System. J. Phys. Mater., 2022. DOI: 10.1088/2515-7639/acab88