'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
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.