Nano-drugs encased in liposomes could one day be used to treat neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study published July 6th in the journal, PloS One. A liposome is a small, fat soluble droplet that can contain a water soluble drug. Liposomes might be useful for treating neurological conditions because fat-soluble molecules can cross the blood-brain barrier, a blockade that protects the nervous system from the blood.
MS is caused by an immune attack on the body’s own myelin, the fatty substance that insulates nerve cells and allows them to communicate. Drugs that block immune responses, known as inflammation, could be helpful for treating or even preventing the disease. MS is one of many neurological conditions that are characterized by inflammation.
The researchers, based in Jerusalem, Israel, used liposome-based nano-drugs to deliver drugs to the nervous system of mice that had been treated to have a form of experimental MS, called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE).
A common problem with conventional medications is that they are broken down too quickly by the body or they do not arrive at the site that they are intended to treat. Liposomal nano-drugs could help solve this problem by dissolving more slowly, and also by arriving at the site that requires treatment, specifically the nervous system. They could cross the blood-brain barrier, particularly useful for diseases that affect the brain and spinal cord. Furthermore, liposomal drug delivery could allow for more targeted drug delivery, requiring less active medication and resulting in fewer side-effects.
In the study, the researchers used two types of drugs, including methylprednisolone and Tempamine (TMN), delivered using the liposomal nano-method. According to their published report they found that “it was demonstrated that these nano-drugs ameliorate the clinical signs and the pathology of EAE [experimental MS].” The drugs reduced brain damage in the animal model, and also diminished movement problems that occur in these animals, which are similar to the movement problems found in MS. The medications also lasted longer in the blood before being broken down.
The authors further remarked that “the highly efficacious anti-inflammatory therapeutic feature of these two nano-drugs meets the criteria of disease-modifying drugs and supports further development and evaluation of these nano-drugs as potential therapeutic agents for diseases with an inflammatory component.”
Liposomal nano-drugs could provide a new way to deliver many old medications, improving the effectiveness and the delivery of existing drugs. Further studies in humans are of course needed.