Using Nanotechnology to Fight Degenerative Neurological Diseases and Psychiatric Conditions

Designed to Cure

U.S. Senator John McCain was recently diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer. A new study out of Northwestern University proposes an innovative, nanotechnology-based strategy to fight this and other intractable neurological conditions. Image Credit: Flickr user CSIS: Center for Strategic & International Studies

Identifying creative strategies to address degenerative neurological diseases and psychiatric conditions is one of the most significant challenges in the life science industry today. From malignant brain tumors to anxiety and depression, nervous system conditions have proven to be extremely difficult to target with traditional drug therapies. However, a recent study out of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine provides proof of principle for a new, nanotechnology-based approach to the targeting of transcription factors.

As life science companies look to build on this preliminary research to create innovative pharmaceutical products that are ideal for treating specific neurological conditions, it can be helpful to use modern software that can aid in the identification of the most promising candidates.

Targeting Cancer Cells with Nanotechnology

In July 2017, the research group from Northwestern University published a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, describing a method for targeting brain tumor initiating cells (sometimes called cancer stem cells) in glioblastoma tumors in rodents. For this, they injected nanoparticles containing small interfering RNA molecules (siRNAs) that were previously known to interfere with transcription factors that promote the expression of proteins that are essential for glioblastoma tumor development.1

It is important to note that the siRNAs they chose were specific to only four transcription factors, and these factors are only highly expressed in some types of glioblastoma tumors. For other classes of this deadly cancer, it will be necessary to design different siRNA-containing nanoparticles. The scientists also believe that it may be possible to apply this strategy to the development of therapeutics for either nervous system conditions — like neurodegenerative diseases and mental health disorders — that are highly variable between patients. With this strategy, siRNAs can be chosen based on the patient’s unique gene expression pattern, enabling a more personalized approach to neurological disease treatment.2

Another future challenge for researchers looking to develop nanotechnology-based therapeutics for neurological conditions will be to verify the safety of the proposed pharmaceutical products. In the recently published paper, the researchers at Northwestern University used mouse models of brain tumors implanted with brain tumor initiating cells derived from human patients — so their work does not provide insight into the safety profile of such a treatment for humans. Therefore, investigating the question of safety will be critical for researchers looking to build on their findings in the future.

Using Modern Software to Support Nanotechnology-Based Drug Design and Development

When it comes to designing and developing therapeutic solutions to neurological diseases and psychiatric conditions, technical scientific barriers are not the only challenges that life science companies face. Today’s high failure rates demonstrate that far too many low quality drug candidates are reaching the clinical trials phase, only to be abandoned after years of investment. The risk that this will happen is especially high when researchers are building on proof of principle studies like the recently published study on the nanoparticle-based treatment for glioblastoma, especially since there is not yet evidence to support the safety of the approach in humans. Therefore, life science companies need to be particularly attentive to the importance of investing time in resources in only the most promising therapeutic candidates.

Today’s software can make it easier for researchers to meet this challenge. By offering tools for the efficient analysis of large quantities of data, modern software can make it easier for researchers to identify the candidates that have the best chance to successfully treat patients and make it past all of the regulatory steps on the way to market. Virtual design capabilities can also help streamline the research and development possible, in order to cut down on the general operational costs of bringing a new pharmaceutical product to market.

BIOVIA Designed to Cure is a high-level software solution that can support your life science company at every step of the research and development process for nanotechnology-based therapies for neurological diseases and psychological conditions. By supporting the identification of high quality drug candidates and improving lab efficiency, this software can help you address both scientific and economic concerns. Contact us today to learn more about this innovative solution and our other software offerings for the life science industry!

  1.  “Multiplexed RNAi therapy against brain tumor-initiating cells via lipopolymeric nanoparticle infusion delays glioblastoma progression,” 2017,
  2. “Nanomedicine opens door to precision medicine for brain tumors,” July 12, 2017,