Researchers Elizabeth Nance and Justin Hanes of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’ Department of Ophthalmology, conducted a new study in which they experimented with nanoparticles that could one day be used to deliver drugs to the brain. They used different sizes and coatings to overcome a problem within brain tissue that prevented larger nanoparticles from diffusing or spreading through the brain.
Their study, published in the joural Science Translational Medicine, attempted to discover how to deliver nanoparticle drugs through “very sticky” extracellular brain fluid. They found that if they coated the nanoparticles in polyethylene glycol, nanoparticles as large as 114 nanometers (nm) could diffuse through the human brain, whereas before they had to be under 64 nm. They also tested coated nanoparticles up 100 nm in the living brains of mice and dissected rat brains, confirming the results.
In the above real-time images, the green areas are the coated nanoparticles diffusing through a rat brain. The red areas are similarly coated nanoparticles, but they are much larger, and thus stay close to the region of injection.
The injection of nanoparticles to deliver drugs to the brain will likely be used to fight brain tumors and heal the brain after a stroke. But what other possible uses might this medical technology have in the future?
Oh, one can imagine an assortment of drugs mainlined into the brain to produce incredible rushes or psychedelic trips, although the idea of a needle or some futuristic device penetrating skin, skull and brain matter is incredibly disturbing. With the US government’s history of experimenting with mind-altering drugs for psychological warfare and interrogations, there will probably be a militarized use of this technique in short order—if there isn’t already.