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Ultrasonic Screwdriver used open blood brain barrier treat tumor first time

The blood-brain barrier is a lattice-like network that acts to keep harmful things like pathogens out of the brain, while allowing useful substances through. It's very good at doing its job, but unfortunately that represents a hurdle in medicine: If a person has a cancerous tumor inside the brain, getting drugs through without compromising it proves impossible. Last year, however, researchers made an incredible breakthrough, somewhat literally: The blood-brain barrier was breached for the first time using a technique that left it intact post-procedure.

Sunnybrook scientists made history this week as they used focused ultrasound to non-invasively breach the blood-brain barrier and more effectively deliver chemotherapy into the brain tumour of a patient.

The high-intensity focused ultrasound emitters were then activated, causing the microbubbles to expand and contract about 200,000 times per second. This forced apart the cells that make up the barrier’s lattice, allowing a chemotherapy drug to make it through the barrier and treat the tumor. The ultrasound emitters were placed as close to the tumor as possible, and the barrier is only weakened for two minutes or so over a small patch, leaving the rest of the brain protected.

This new revised method, developed by Dr. Todd Mainprize and Dr. Kullervo Hynynen at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, is more precise and non-invasive.

Firstly, as before, chemotherapy medication is injected into the bloodstream, as are the microbubbles. After locating the target tumor using an MRI scanner, a focused beam of ultrasound from outside of the body is directed at the blood-brain barrier, allowing the microbubbles to vibrate and open an incredibly small section of it up, allowing the medication to get through. The bubbles are eventually reabsorbed into the lungs. Importantly, no surgery of any kind was involved.

Learn more at http://sunnybrook.ca/media/item.asp?c=1&i=1351&f=blood-brain-barrier-focused-ultrasound-chemo

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