Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Barrier-busting Bubbles
31 December 2016

Barrier-busting Bubbles

'Tis the season of champagne quaffing, and while it’s a well-known fact that bubbles of the alcoholic variety go rapidly to a person’s head (I write from experience), it’s a lesser-known fact that bubbles of the medical variety (pictured) are also excellent at getting to the brain – specifically at delivering brain-targeted medications. The brain is difficult to access, medically speaking, because the blood-brain barrier – a specialsed lining of the brain’s blood vessels that prevents bacteria and viruses from entering – also blocks most drugs. Scientists are investigating ways to bypass the barrier, and one recent method under review is microbubbles with focused ultrasound. After drug-loaded microbubbles are injected into the blood, sound waves are directed at blood vessels in the brain making the bubbles jiggle erratically – like merry employees at an office Christmas disco. The jiggling bubbles then temporarily break down the barrier and release their contents into the brain.

Written by Ruth Williams

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