Researchers overcome a barrier to treating the brain

The human body has a very efficient system for excluding toxins and other invaders from the brain. But the same blood-brain barrier that keeps toxins out also bars therapeutics, complicating efforts to treat a whole host of diseases.

The New York Times details the work of researchers who have been using the drug mannitol to prompt the body to temporarily drop its defense and let drugs in to do their work. In one recent case, a patient suffering from glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer, was treated with Avastin after mannitol opened the way in.

"This will substantially alter the way that chemotherapy is given in the future," Dr. John Boockvar, a brain surgeon, told the Times. "But we have to prove that at certain doses, nobody gets hurt." The new approach may also open the way to treat brain metastases, as well as neurological conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's as well as multiple sclerosis.

- read the article from the New York Times