Brain: the ultimate frontier (of nanotherapeutics)

Improving our ability to design NPs, the major target of DIRNANO,

may have positive effects also on pharmaceutical hot issues, beyond the specific aims of DIRNANO. For example, in the search for early diagnosis and curing of diffuse neurodegenerative human disease affecting the brain, like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or Huntington’s disease. These are becoming more and more important, due to increase life-expectancy. Unfortunately, the blood–brain barrier (BBB) selectively excludes most blood-borne substances. It has long been thought that nanoparticulate drug carriers could resolve the brain delivery issue.

The brain is a privileged organ protected by a complex multicellular

(endothelial, pericytes, astrocytes and microglia cells) barrier termed the blood–brain barrier (BBB), which selectively excludes most blood-borne substances from entering the brain. The BBB accounts for the failure of a large number of promising intravenously injected neurotherapeutics such as RNA interference (RNAi) to reach the central nervous system. It has long been thought that nanoparticulate drug carriers could resolve the brain delivery issue and without compromising the integrity of the BBB.

A possible strategy is based on surface decoration of nanoparticles with molecules that recognise endothelial cells forming cerebral capillaries. In principle, this approach should localise nanomedicines at the gateways to the brain, but the biological performance of such nanosystems has been below par to justify pharmaceutical developments.



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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 956544
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