Drug Delivery to the Brain across the Blood–Brain Barrier Using Nanomaterials

Yung Hao Tsou, Xue Qing Zhang, He Zhu, Sahla Syed, Xiaoyang Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


A major obstacle facing brain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, and strokes is the blood–brain barrier (BBB). The BBB prevents the passage of certain molecules and pathogens from the circulatory system into the brain. Therefore, it is nearly impossible for therapeutic drugs to target the diseased cells without the assistance of carriers. Nanotechnology is an area of growing public interest; nanocarriers, such as polymer-based, lipid-based, and inorganic-based nanoparticles can be engineered in different sizes, shapes, and surface charges, and they can be modified with functional groups to enhance their penetration and targeting capabilities. Hence, understanding the interaction between nanomaterials and the BBB is crucial. In this Review, the components and properties of the BBB are revisited and the types of nanocarriers that are most commonly used for brain drug delivery are discussed. The properties of the nanocarriers and the factors that affect drug delivery across the BBB are elaborated upon in this review. Additionally, the most recent developments of nanoformulations and nonconventional drug delivery strategies are highlighted. Finally, challenges and considerations for the development of brain targeting nanomedicines are discussed. The overall objective is to broaden the understanding of the design and to develop nanomedicines for the treatment of brain diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1701921
Issue number43
StatePublished - Nov 20 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Biotechnology
  • General Materials Science
  • Biomaterials


  • blood brain barrier
  • drug delivery
  • nanotechnology


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