by Michelle Roberts
For the first time, doctors have breached the human brain’s protective layer to deliver cancer-fighting drugs.
The Canadian team used tiny gas-filled bubbles, injected into the bloodstream of a patient, to punch temporary holes in the blood-brain barrier.
A beam of focused ultrasound waves applied to the skull made the bubbles vibrate and push their way through, along with chemotherapy drugs.
Six to 10 more patients will undergo the same procedure as part of a trial.
Experts said the experimental technique used at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre was exciting because it meant doctors might be able to give cancer patients potent drugs that otherwise would not work.
The same non-invasive method could also be used for other brain diseases, such as dementia and Parkinson’s.
But many more safety studies are needed, they say. Animal trials have produced some results, but it is not yet clear whether the treatment would work or have side-effects.
The blood-brain barrier keeps pathogens and toxins away from the central nervous system. But this tightly packed layer of cells, which separates the brain from its blood vessels, can be a hindrance if you want to deliver drugs into the brain.
The Sunnybrook team temporarily ripped holes in the barrier to allow chemotherapy a safe passage through.
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