Using femtosecond lasers to administer drugs

June 26, 2014 by Kathleen Estes
Diagram of liposome encapsulating dopamine that is tethered to a gold nanoparticle. The liposome is then activated with the laser, which releases the dopamine. Credit: Scientific Reports.

Combining physics and neurobiology to tackle Parkinson's Disease is research "I would never have been able to do outside of OIST," says Professor Keshav Dani. The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University's Femtosecond Spectroscopy Unit and Neurobiology Research Unit, along with collaborators at the University of Otago, New Zealand are using lasers, nanotechnology and neuroscience to develop a new, versatile drug delivery system. In a new article in Scientific Reports, the researchers describe their work using a laser to release a neurochemical, the function of which is impaired in Parkinson's Disease, in a controlled and repeatable manner.

An exciting new area of research for a cure or therapy for many diseases is targeted . Currently, we administer drugs in a systemic way and tissues or organs that do not need the drug receive it, leading to unwanted side effects. A good example of this is in chemotherapy, which is toxic not only to the intended target cancer cells, but also to healthy tissue. Recent advances in nanotechnology and biology are opening up the possibilities in targeted drug delivery, where researchers can release drugs or compounds in a specific tissue or even individual cells, which would allow the drug to reach only its intended target. In their recent paper, OIST researchers describe a method to encapsulate a drug in a shell of lipids, or fat, called a liposome, and modulate the release of the drug using a pulse from a laser.

Members of the Neurobiology Research Unit approached the Femtosecond Spectroscopy Unit with the idea to apply laser technology in a possible therapy for Parkinson's Disease. In Parkinson's Disease, the neurochemical dopamine does not function properly. The researchers wanted to use the and intensity of femtosecond lasers to control the release of dopamine in a way that mimicked its natural dynamic mechanism. Therefore, the researchers encapsulated dopamine in a liposome tethered to a gold nanoparticle. They used a as the energy source. The energy is absorbed by the gold nanoparticle and then transferred to the liposome, causing the liposome to open and release the dopamine. The length of time and therefore amount of dopamine released can be precisely controlled by the intensity and length of time the laser is on. The researchers also showed that the liposomes are not destroyed by the laser as in previous similar studies. Therefore, the release of , or any chemical contained within the liposome, can be repeated and controlled. Takashi Nakano of the OIST Neurobiology Research Unit said, "with this method, we can administer a wide range of drugs with precise timing and duration using laser pulses with sub-second accuracy. We are very excited about the potential this new tool brings to neurobiological research."

OIST researchers involved in this research: (from left) Dr. Peter Hale, Prof. Keshav Dani, Dr. Takashi Nakano, Prof. Jeff Wickens, and Dr. Bala Murali Krishna Mariserla

The next step is using these laser-activated liposomes in living tissue, and eventually, in a live animal. The ability to release potentially any type of drug, chemical or naturally occurring compound in the right place at the right time with a controlled dosage will open new possibilities in medicine. For Dani, it is exciting for him to "be able to utilize a physics technique I learned in graduate school for applications in neuroscience." Nakano added, "the close collaboration between physicists, chemists, and neuroscientists made this outcome possible. OIST's interdisciplinary research has truly facilitated smooth understanding of fields outside the collaborators' individual expertise." The future of new technologies and cures for disease may lie at the boundary between different scientific fields, such as physics and neuroscience. OIST researchers are addressing today's scientific and medical puzzles, like Parkinson's Disease, by developing tomorrow's technologies that straddle those scientific boundaries. Maybe Parkinson's Disease will be cured by a curious neuroscientist who works across the hall from a willing physicist in Okinawa.

Explore further: Boost for dopamine packaging protects brain in Parkinson's model

More information: "Mimicking subsecond neurotransmitter dynamics with femtosecond laser stimulated nanosystems." Takashi Nakano, et al. Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 5398 DOI: 10.1038/srep05398. Received 11 March 2014 Accepted 03 June 2014 Published 23 June 2014

Related Stories

Boost for dopamine packaging protects brain in Parkinson's model

June 17, 2014
Researchers from Emory's Rollins School of Public Health discovered that an increase in the protein that helps store dopamine, a critical brain chemical, led to enhanced dopamine neurotransmission and protection from a Parkinson's ...

Hunting down the trigger for Parkinson's: Failing dopamine pump damages brain cells

June 16, 2014
A study group at the Medical University of Vienna's Centre for Brain Research has investigated the function of an intracellular dopamine pump in Parkinson's patients compared to a healthy test group. It turned out that this ...

Laser-assisted drug delivery is evolving

April 27, 2014
(HealthDay)—Laser-assisted drug delivery can enhance the permeation of topically applied agents, according to a review published in the April issue of Lasers in Surgery and Medicine.

Researchers see promise in transplanted fetal stem cells for Parkinson's

June 5, 2014
Researchers at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital have found that fetal dopamine cells transplanted into the brains of patients with Parkinson's disease were able to remain healthy and functional for up to 14 years, a finding ...

Moving toward improved cell replacement therapy for Parkinson's disease

June 17, 2014
Parkinson's disease, which affects millions worldwide, results from neuron loss. Transplantation of fetal tissue to restore this loss has shown promise, but ethical concerns over acquiring this tissue limit its use.

Recommended for you

New understanding of how muscles work

August 23, 2017
Muscle malfunctions may be as simple as a slight strain after exercise or as serious as heart failure and muscular dystrophy. A new technique developed at McGill now makes it possible to look much more closely at how sarcomeres, ...

Scientists find RNA with special role in nerve healing process

August 22, 2017
Scientists may have identified a new opening to intervene in the process of healing peripheral nerve damage with the discovery that an "anti-sense" RNA (AS-RNA) is expressed when nerves are injured. Their experiments in mice ...

Mouse model of human immune system inadequate for stem cell studies

August 22, 2017
A type of mouse widely used to assess how the human immune system responds to transplanted stem cells does not reflect what is likely to occur in patients, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School ...

Researchers offer new targets for drugs against fatty liver disease and liver cancer

August 22, 2017
There may no silver bullet for treating liver cancer or fatty liver disease, but knowing the right targets will help scientists develop the most effective treatments. Researchers in Sweden have just identified a number of ...

Bio-inspired materials give boost to regenerative medicine

August 18, 2017
What if one day, we could teach our bodies to self-heal like a lizard's tail, and make severe injury or disease no more threatening than a paper cut?

Make way for hemoglobin

August 18, 2017
Every cell in the body, whether skin or muscle or brain, starts out as a generic cell that acquires its unique characteristics after undergoing a process of specialization. Nowhere is this process more dramatic than it is ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.