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Fox Foundation Funds Researchers’ Work on Parkinson’s Disease


New Haven, Conn. — The Michael J. Fox Foundation has awarded $125,000 to Yale biomedical engineers Mark Saltzman and Michael Levene for research on the obstacles to drug delivery in regions of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease.

Saltzman and Levene will develop new imaging techniques that “see” the movement of molecules in the brains of living animals. This will make it possible to track how drugs important for treatment of Parkinson’s disease move to their target areas under different conditions.

This study will be the first to correlate molecular movement within the local brain architecture. The high-resolution images created will give fine detail of the neuroanatomy 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 the technology to molecular tracking of drugs as they traverse the brain.

Clinical trials with 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, the Goizueta Foundation Professor and chair of biomedical engineering in Yale’s School of Engineering & Applied Science.

Saltzman has published widely on 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 15 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 provide the basis for the design of new approaches for drug delivery in patients with Parkinson’s disease.”


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