Tumors within the spinal cord can be very difficult to treat surgically, due to the extremely fragile and important tissues that can be found nearby. While radiation can reach the tumors, chemo agents have trouble crossing the blood-brain barrier, which protects the spinal cord from dangerous pathogens and chemical compounds. Now researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have shown that they can use magnets to pull chemo drugs, which are coupled to magnetic nanoparticles, across the blood-brain barrier and into intramedullary spinal cord tumors.
The process involves implanting a strong rare-earth magnet at the tumor site and then injecting nanoparticles with doxorubicin, a common chemo agent, into the spinal cord. As the nanoparticles travel up the spinal cord, they reach the magnetic field and become localized around the tumor. The magnet, being placed on the opposite side of the tumor in relation to where the nanoparticles come in, is then used to pull the nanoparticles across the blood brain barrier.
The technology has been already tried on laboratory rats with great success, with the magnetic nanoparticle-drug combo killing intramedullary spinal cord tumor cells. Nearby cells, outside the focused area of the magnetic field, were minimally effective, according to the researchers.
“This proof-of-concept study shows that magnetic nanoparticles are an effective way to deliver chemotherapy to an area of the body that has been difficult to reach with available treatments,” said Dr. Ankit Mehta, assistant professor of neurosurgery at University of Illinois at Chicago. “We will continue to investigate the potential of this therapy and hope to enter human trials if it continues to show promise.”
Here’s a video explaining the workings of the technology:
Open access study in Scientific Reports: Magnetic Drug Targeting: A Novel Treatment for Intramedullary Spinal Cord Tumors…