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U.Va. And Hopkins Collaborate To Use Fus To Deliver Nanoparticles Into The Brain

Thursday, June 25, 2015  
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Biomedical engineers at the University of Virginia (UVA) and John Hopkins University (JHU) have developed a prolific collaboration that has generated several long-term, multi-million-dollar focused ultrasound research grants.

Richard Price, PhD, Research Director of the UVA Focused Ultrasound Center and Justin Hanes, PhD, Director of the Center for Nanomedicine at the Wilmer Eye Institute and JHU School of Medicine, are developing nanoparticles that can be delivered deep into the brain with the assistance of focused ultrasound. Their work has earned them nearly $7 million of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding from 2011 to 2020 to propel their discoveries to the clinic.

In their UVA biomedical engineering laboratory, Price and his team used focused ultrasound to allow the targeted and controlled delivery of nanoparticles deep into the brain. Justin Hanes and his team at JHU are creating the nanoparticles that Price is delivering. These nanoparticles are essentially encapsulated—or coated—molecules, such as chemotherapy drugs or protein-coding nucleic acids (like RNA or DNA).

“With the focused ultrasound technology, virtually anything in the central nervous system that was unreachable before is now possible to access for targeted drug and gene delivery.” Said Richard Price, PhD.

“We are proud to have supported some of the early validating work conducted by Rich and Justin,” said the Foundation’s Chief Scientific Officer, Jessica Foley, PhD. “Their collaboration is a perfect model for the synergistic potential of focused ultrasound across disciplines and institutions. With these new grants, they will have the resources to quickly translate their research into benefits for patients.”

The key to the success of this collaborative and multidisciplinary team is two-fold. First, they have developed a research platform that has produced measurable and critical results in many different disease models, including brain tumors and Parkinson’s. Secondly, they have established multiple collaborative relationships with scientists whose projects and novel therapeutic targets work well on the platform. For example, Price and Hanes are working with neuro-oncologists to more effectively inhibit tumor growth and with immunologists to stimulate and enhance the body’s ability to attack brain metastases.

The researchers’ hope is that the gene delivered directly to the metastatic brain tumor will trigger an immune response. “The potential for this approach is fascinating. The holy grail would be to treat one lesion and have it create a systemic immune response against all of the other metastatic lesions,” said Dr. Price.

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