Professors and students discover new way to deliver HIV drug to the brain

Photo By Maggie Bartlett, NHGRI [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Aaron Pabon//Staff Writer

Two University researchers with the assistance of two graduate students have developed a new way for the anti-HIV drug azidothymidine triphosphate to enter the body, specifically through the brain.

The discovery has been made by Madhavan Nair, a professor and chair of the department of immunology, and Sakhrat Khizroev, professor of immunology and electrical engineering.

The human body has a multitude of natural barriers that prevents certain drugs and substances from entering the body. One of these barriers is called the blood brain barrier, which prevents the AZTTP drug from entering the brain, preventing effective treatment.

“We wanted to send some drugs to the brain and the nanotechnology and nanoparticles are the smallest in size, so they can cross the blood brain barrier,” said Nair.

The new delivery process developed by Nair and Khizroev works by attaching the AZTTP drug to microscopic magneto-electric particles, and using magnetic energy to guide the drug to its destination.

Once the drug has reached its destination, it is released from the nanoparticles by passing a low electric current. According to Nair, the drug is still functional after the process and allows the drug to work past the blood brain barrier.

“Now we have a new technology by which not only can we send the drugs to the brain, [but] release the drugs,” said Nair.

The testing of this breakthrough was conducted at FIU’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. There, they created a cell membrane which simulates the blood brain barrier that is found in humans.

Nair and Khizroev have been working on this research since 2009, and the research will still continue through a second stage of
testing that will commence at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

The second stage will involve testing the technique on monkeys infected with HIV.

Pending the success of the second phase could mean the possibility of human trials, and eventually approval from the Food and Drug Administration and open use to the public.

“We hope that this can be done in a laboratory in a doctors office,” said Nair.

“It’s a very cheap technique,” said Khizroev. “We want to have it in every office for quick treatment.”

Because of the cost effectiveness of the process, it can be used at almost any location. Examples include hospitals, free health clinics, or a Third World country.

“You don’t need any fancy equipment, or any fancy clean-rooms,” said Nair.

According to Khizroev, there has been an major response from South America because of both the breakthrough and the cost effectiveness of the delivery process.

“There is a lot of participation and a lot of momentum,” said Nair. “There are a lot of students interested in this project.”

Two graduate students, Vidya Sagar and Rakesh Gudura, came on board to help with the project two years ago.

Sagar works in the department of biology, and Gudura is an electrical and computer engineer.

Gudura’s main interest is to develop a tool to diagnose any type of infection.

“Whether it is bacterial or viral, we can just monitor with these particles based on their quantum coupling of this interaction,” said Gudura.

“I will be working towards having some solid treatment for HIV,” said Sagar. “My ultimate goal is to be able to stop HIV and to make sure that something positive comes in the future.”

Sagar and Guruda will be continuing the ongoing research along side Nair and Khizroev.

The discovery also has prospects to help those that suffer from neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and to help with treatment for brain cancer or epilepsy.

“There is a good foundation to expand to other medical innovations,” said Khizroev.

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