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Mol Pharm. 2013 May 6;10(5):1492-504. doi: 10.1021/mp300495e. Epub 2013 Jan 31.

Diffusion of macromolecules in the brain: implications for drug delivery.

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Pharmaceutical Sciences Division, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy, Madison, Wisconsin 53705, United States.


Therapeutics must diffuse through the brain extracellular space (ECS) in order to distribute within the central nervous system (CNS) compartment; this requirement holds both for drugs that are directly placed within the CNS (i.e., central input) and for drugs that cross the barriers separating blood and brain following systemic administration. The diffusion of any substance within the CNS may be affected by a number of properties associated with the brain microenvironment, e.g., the volume fraction, geometry, width, and local viscosity of the ECS, as well as interactions with cell surfaces, the extracellular matrix, and components of the interstitial fluid. Here, we discuss ECS properties important in governing the distribution of macromolecules (e.g., antibodies and other protein therapeutics), nanoparticles and viral vectors within the CNS. We also provide an introduction to some of the methods commonly applied to measure diffusion of molecules in the brain ECS, with a particular emphasis on those used for determining the diffusion properties of macromolecules. Finally, we discuss how quantitative diffusion measurements can be used to better understand and potentially even improve upon CNS drug delivery by modeling delivery within and across species, screening drugs and drug conjugates, evaluating methods for altering drug distribution, and appreciating important changes in drug distribution that may occur with CNS disease or injury.

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