Fox Foundation Funds Researchers’ Work on Parkinson’s Disease

Michael Levene’s laboratory imaged these neurons from a mouse cortex using gradient index lenses. This same technology will lay the foundation for new drug delivery systems that can help patients with Parkinson’s disease.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation has awarded $125,000 to Yale biomedical engineers Mark Saltzman and Michael Levene for research aiming to overcome obstacles to drug delivery in regions of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Saltzman and Levene are developing new imaging techniques that will allow researchers to see the movement of molecules in the brains of living animals. This advanced imaging will make it possible to track how PD drugs move through the brain to their target areas under various conditions.

This study will be one of the first to correlate molecular movement within the local brain architecture. The high-resolution images will provide fine neuroanatomical detail as quantitative measurements track the molecules being evaluated.

Levene, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is a pioneer of deep brain imaging using multi-photon microscopy in living animals. This study will expand that technology to include molecular tracking of drugs as they traverse the brain. Saltzman is the Goizueta Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering & Chemical Engineering as well as chair of biomedical engineering within Yale’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Clinical trials of a number of agents suggest that the ability of compounds to move through the spaces between cells of the brain is a critical factor for their effectiveness. “Our novel deep-brain techniques will monitor real-time cellular events that regulate localized drug movement—like binding and uptake of drugs into cells and drug entry into the micro­vasculature,” says Saltzman.

Saltzman has published widely on the development of efficient drug-delivery technology, including the recent addition of water-soluble polymers to chemotherapeutic drugs to give them deeper and more stable delivery to brain locations.

“Over the past fifteen years, studies have revealed how some agents move in the brain, but a general framework for predicting movement of drugs in the brain is lacking,” he says. “We anticipate that our results will help establish a basis for the design of new approaches for drug delivery in patients with Parkinson’s disease.”

(June 2, 2009)

June 2, 2009