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Peptides. 1997;18(9):1431-9.

Bioavailability and transport of peptides and peptide drugs into the brain.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson 85724, USA.


Rational drug design and the targeting of specific organs has become a reality in modern drug development, with the emergence of molecular biology and receptor chemistry as powerful tools for the pharmacologist. A greater understanding of peptide function as one of the major extracellular message systems has made neuropeptides an important target in neuropharmaceutical drug design. The major obstacle to targeting the brain with therapeutics is the presence of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), which controls the concentration and entry of solutes into the central nervous system. Peptides are generally polar in nature, do not easily cross the blood-brain barrier by diffusion, and except for a small number do not have specific transport systems. Peptides can also undergo metabolic deactivation by peptidases of the blood, brain and the endothelial cells that comprise the BBB. In this review, we discuss a number of the recent strategies which have been used to promote peptide stability and peptide entry into the brain. In addition, we approach the subject of targeting specific transport systems that can be found on the brain endothelial cells, and describe the limitations of the methodologies that are currently used to study brain entry of neuropharmaceuticals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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