About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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Brain Waves

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March 24, 2003

Barriers to Drug Delivery

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Posted by Zack Lynch

This month's Scientific American describes many of problems faced in getting pharmaceuticals to their intended targets throughout our bodies. Delivering neuropsychopharmaceuticals to our brain remains even more of a problem.

Drug delivery to our brain can occur through several methods: orally (pills), gaseous/inhaled, intramuscularly (skin patch), intravenously, and neural injection.  The method used greatly influences the amount of the drug that is required for the same effect to be observed.  For example, a single dose of an amphetamine creates the same effect but requires hugely different volumes depending on the method of delivery:

  • 1000 micrograms if ingested orally
  • 100 micrograms if injected or inhaled
  • 10 micrograms if injected in the cerebral spinal fluid
  • 1 microgram if injected onto the neuron

The primary delivery limiters are the digestive system and the blood brain barrier.  Many effective treatments for mental illnesses have been kept off the market due to the inability to safely deliver therapeutic chemicals whose large molecular sizes makes it impossible for them to pass the blood brain barrier. 

Neural chips may play a role in effectively delivery, but the cultural "acceptability barrier" of implanting chips into our brains will likely remain the largest obstacle to adoption on wide scale for some time to come.  It is one thing if you are deaf and get a cochlear implant, it is another to be willing to go through a surgical procedure if you are a bit anxious or occasionally depressed.  The likely pathway will depend on the pay-off for the patient.  One thing is for sure, more effective drug delivery systems will require new partnerships and new techniques to make precise delivery possible.

Comments (2) | Category: Neuropharma


1. Muntaha on November 18, 2003 11:29 PM writes...

i need more information about this topic if that is possible.
i am writing a research about it so it will help me alot.
thank you.

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2. Divita Garg on August 26, 2004 2:49 AM writes...

Respectfully, I am in immense need of more information, peoples working in the same area, & web links of this topic. I am M.S. student & want to work in the same area. my topic is role of informatics in drug delivery systems.
Trust you 'll do little in my favour,
thanks a lot in anticipation

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