A New Method for Ferrying Drugs Across the Blood Brain Barrier

 In Naturopathic News

Brain Diseases: Breaking Beyond the Blood Brain Barrier

Brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s epilepsy and Parkinson’s are all not curable and difficult to treat. However, this may be changing due to recent research conducted at Aalborg University. The major obstacle with treating these diseases, from a conventional standpoint, once they have already progressed to a symptomatic stage, is the blood brain barrier. The blood brain barrier inhibits drugs from crossing into the brain and exerting an effect, making it difficult to treat brain conditions.

Meet the Drug “Ferry”

The recent research is describing a method of packaging drugs within a type of “ferry” which will allow the drug to cross the blood brain barrier.1 By attaching a pharmaceutical agent to a protein or amino acid that the brain is familiar with, it has been shown that the blood brain barrier can be crossed, and the drug then released. The research team is working on developing a “universal” method which would allow all sorts of drugs to be introduced to the brain in this way. By being able to target specific cells in the brain, many diseases could be potentially cured in the future. If not cured, the management could be more effective.

Bridging Biological Drugs to the Brain for the True Test of Treatment

There is a desire to use this mechanism to deliver biological drugs to brain cells. Biological drugs have the ability to target gene expression or protein synthesis which could theoretically stope disease-causing proteins or stop cellular processes that are dysfunctional. Biologicals have not been able to be used in the treatment of neurological diseases because they can’t get passed the blood brain barrier. The team has become very skillful at getting through the blood brain barrier, but are still having difficulty directing medications to specific cells.


  1. Johnsen KB, Burkhart A, Melander F, et al. Targeting transferrin receptors at the blood-brain barrier improves the uptake of immunoliposomes and subsequent cargo transport into the brain parenchyma. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):10396.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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