Stems cells as drug delivery carriers to the brain

December 15, 2005 | Source: KurzweilAI

Engineered human brain progenitor cells, transplanted into the brains of rats and monkeys, can effectively integrate into the brain and deliver medicine where it is needed, bypassing the blood-brain barrier, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have found.

The Wisconsin team obtained and grew large numbers of progenitor cells from human fetal brain tissue. They then engineered the cells to produce a growth factor known as glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). In some small but promising clinical trials, GDNF showed a marked ability to provide relief from the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s. But the drug, which is expensive and hard to obtain, had to be pumped directly into the brains of Parkinson’s patients for it to work, as it is unable to cross the blood-brain barrier.

In an effort to develop a less invasive strategy to effectively deliver the drug to the brain, Svendsen’s team implanted the GDNF secreting cells into the brains of rats and elderly primates. The cells migrated within critical areas of the brain and produced the growth factor in quantities sufficient for improving the survival and function of the defective cells at the root of Parkinson’s.

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison news release