Dutch researcher Corine Visser investigated a new way of transporting medicines into the brain. Her approach made use of an iron transport system located on the blood-brain barrier. The smaller the medicine, the more easily it penetrates the brain.
A special barrier between the blood and the brain, the so-called blood-brain barrier (BBB), protects the brain from toxic substances. It only lets through important nutrients for the brain such as iron, glucose and oxygen. Visser allowed larger molecules, such as medicines, to pass through the blood-brain barrier by attaching these to the iron-containing protein transferrin. This technique allowed the medicines to hitch a lift and pass unnoticed though the BBB. How much medicine reaches the brain depends on the size of the molecule attached to the transferrin.
Much of the BBB is made up of capillary endothelial cells, the cells which line the walls of blood vessels. In the brain, unlike other parts of the body, these cells are closely packed together. This makes it almost impossible for substances to pass between the cells. Further in the brain, few substances can pass through the endothelial cells.
Dr Corine Visser | EurekAlert!
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