One of the keys to success was controlling the release of the drug without adversely affecting the brain.
The researchers found their solution in the magneto-electric nanoparticles, which are uniquely suited to deliver and release drugs in the brain, Khizroev said. These nanoparticles can convert magnetic energy into the electrical energy needed to release the drugs without creating heat, which could potentially harm the brain.
The development of a new, less invasive pathway to the brain would open the door to many new medical uses.
Khizroev said he recently returned from a trip to the University of Southern California, where he briefed physicians at the medical school on the technique and its potential for cancer treatment. And Nair said he received a letter recently on behalf of a 91-year-old man suffering from Parkinson’s, asking when the technique might become available for use in people.
That may take a while. With the first phase of testing successfully completed using in vitro experiments, the second will take place at Emory University in Georgia, where researchers will test the technique on monkeys infected with the HIV virus.
If researchers complete the second phase successfully, clinical trials on humans could follow, Nair said. Approval from the Food and Drug Administration would be required before the technique becomes commercially available, he said.
FIU researchers have applied for a patent and would receive royalties, they said, though the university would benefit the most, in part because a successful research project could open opportunities for more grant funding on other topics.
For Khizroev, who had previously done research on quantum computing and information processing, the project has offered a way to put his scientific knowledge to use in a way that could have a direct affect on people’s health.
“I wanted to apply my knowledge of nanoparticles to something important,’’ he said.