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CNS Drugs. 2009;23(1):35-58. doi: 10.2165/0023210-200923010-00003.

Getting into the brain: approaches to enhance brain drug delivery.

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Institute of Pharmacy, Nirma University of Science and Technology, Ahmedabad, India.


Being the most delicate organ of the body, the brain is protected against potentially toxic substances by the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which restricts the entry of most pharmaceuticals into the brain. The developmental process for new drugs for the treatment of CNS disorders has not kept pace with progress in molecular neurosciences because most of the new drugs discovered are unable to cross the BBB. The clinical failure of CNS drug delivery may be attributed largely to a lack of appropriate drug delivery systems. Localized and controlled delivery of drugs at their desired site of action is preferred because it reduces toxicity and increases treatment efficiency. The present review provides an insight into some of the recent advances made in the field of brain drug delivery.The various strategies that have been explored to increase drug delivery into the brain include (i) chemical delivery systems, such as lipid-mediated transport, the prodrug approach and the lock-in system; (ii) biological delivery systems, in which pharmaceuticals are re-engineered to cross the BBB via specific endogenous transporters localized within the brain capillary endothelium; (iii) disruption of the BBB, for example by modification of tight junctions, which causes a controlled and transient increase in the permeability of brain capillaries; (iv) the use of molecular Trojan horses, such as peptidomimetic monoclonal antibodies to transport large molecules (e.g. antibodies, recombinant proteins, nonviral gene medicines or RNA interference drugs) across the BBB; and (v) particulate drug carrier systems. Receptor-mediated transport systems exist for certain endogenous peptides, such as insulin and transferrin, enabling these molecules to cross the BBB in vivo.The use of polymers for local drug delivery has greatly expanded the spectrum of drugs available for the treatment of brain diseases, such as malignant tumours and Alzheimer's disease. In addition, various drug delivery systems (e.g. liposomes, microspheres, nanoparticles, nanogels and bionanocapsules) have been used to enhance drug delivery to the brain. Recently, microchips and biodegradable polymers have become important in brain tumour therapy.The intense search for alternative routes of drug delivery (e.g. intranasal drug delivery, convection-enhanced diffusion and intrathecal/intraventricular drug delivery systems) has been driven by the need to overcome the physiological barriers of the brain and to achieve high drug concentrations within the brain. For more than 30 years, considerable efforts have been made to enhance the delivery of therapeutic molecules across the vascular barriers of the CNS. The current challenge is to develop drug delivery strategies that will allow the passage of drug molecules through the BBB in a safe and effective manner.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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