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Opening of the blood-brain barrier for molecular imaging

Opening of the blood-brain barrier for molecular imaging at Sunnybrook Research Institute

The delivery of large molecular agents into the central nervous system via the blood supply is often impossible because the blood-brain barrier (BBB) protects brain tissue from foreign molecules. A technique that allows these agents to reach the brain tissue would open the door to new methods for the diagnosis and monitoring of brain disorders that currently cannot be performed. Such a technique would also result in a new research tool to investigate brain function and disorders in animal models using molecular imaging.

Laboratory experiments have shown that focused ultrasound beams can be used to open the BBB noninvasively in a highly localized tissue volume deep in the brain. We have demonstrated that highly focused ultrasound beams can be accurately delivered through an intact human skull with a phased array transducer, thus eliminating the most significant barrier for using focused ultrasound in the brain.

Our goal is to develop a device that opens the BBB for molecular imaging agents by delivering focused ultrasound through the intact skull to open the BBB at very low ultrasound power levels. Successful implementation of this method would make many new molecular imaging approaches possible in the brain.