UNC researchers hijack natural 'bubbles' to transport Parkinson's med

Exosomes (red) loaded with catalase interacting with neurons--Courtesy of UNC

Getting drugs into the brain is one of the biggest challenges in medical research. Now a group of investigators at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill say they found an ideal method, hijacking tiny "bubbles" produced by cells and turning them into a delivery vehicle for a potent Parkinson's medication.

The team extracted exosomes found in immune cells and packed them with the enzyme catalase, an antidote to the neuron-killing inflammation that causes Parkinson's and is also linked to other neurodegenerative diseases. And they found that using a simple nasal spray was the best way to send these bubbles to their target.

Diseases like AIDS already use exosomes to spread through the body, notes the group. So what better method for getting a drug past the notorious blood-brain barrier to where it can do some good?

"Exosomes are engineered by nature to be the perfect delivery vehicles for proteins and genetic material," says Elena Batrakova, who worked with colleagues at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy's Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery. "Catalase is a huge protein, and it is almost impossible to deliver across the blood-brain barrier alone. We use exosomes from white blood cells, which are invisible to the immune system and easily interact and fuse with the blood-brain barrier to deliver their cargo across it."

Batrakova's next goal is to develop a personalized therapy that relies on exosomes that have been extracted directly from patients. Their work was published in the Journal of Controlled Release.

- here's the release
- get the research abstract

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