Nanoparticles of porous silicon, each 100 times smaller than a human hair, might be used as injectable microscopic reservoirs of therapeutic drugs. The surface of the particles can be coated with targeting molecules. Image courtesy of Chia-Chen Wu, UC San Diego.
DARPA, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has awarded $6 million to a multi-institutional team of researchers to develop nanotechnology therapies for the treatment of traumatic brain injury.
Led by Professor Michael J. Sailor, PhD, from the University of California San Diego, the project team seeks to use nanoparticles and similar approaches to deliver therapeutics to injured brains and reduce infections.
Ballistics injuries that penetrate the skull have amounted to 18 percent of battlefield wounds sustained by men and women who served in the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the most recent estimate from the Joint Theater Trauma Registry, a compilation of data collected during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
“A major contributor to the mortality associated with a penetrating brain injury is the elevated risk of intracranial infection,” said neurosurgeon Clark C. Chen, MD, PhD, of the UC San Diego Health System, noting that projectiles drive contaminated foreign materials into neural tissue.
Under normal conditions, the brain is protected from infection by a physiological system called the blood-brain barrier. “Unfortunately, those same natural defense mechanisms make it difficult to get antibiotics to the brain once an infection has taken hold,” said Chen. Watch a video and read the entire news release here.