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Ultrasound Helps Drugs Sneak Past the Blood-Brain Barrier

(Gizmodo) A new ultrasound technique uses microbubbles and focused sound waves to help chemo medication sneak past the the stubborn blood-brain barrier. Developed by Canadian surgeons, the technique could eventually be used to treat such conditions as Alzheimer’s and depression.
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) protects the brain from all sorts of nasty things, like disruptive hormones, neurotransmitters, and foreign substances. Unfortunately, this same barrier also prevents doctors from using the bloodstream as a conduit for delivering essential medicines.
Last year, doctors from Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris were the first to use an innovative technique in which microbubbles were used to open a rift in the BBB with ultrasound waves. This surgery was used on patients with glioblastoma—an aggressive type of brain tumor—to deliver chemotherapy drugs directly into the brain. The technique, though promising, wasn’t very targeted, and it required an ultrasound inducer to be implanted into the skull during surgery.
The revised technique, developed by Dr. Todd Mainprize, Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, and their team at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, is very similar to the one developed in Europe, but it’s more targeted and much less invasive.
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