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This Nasal Spray May Clear Your Brain, Not Your Sinuses

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Philip Gorelick, MD, professor and director of the Center for Stroke Research in Chicago, tells WebMD that "the standard method of delivery for drugs to treat stroke is [via an injection into the vein]. So, if this were true, it would be novel." But after consulting with a number of colleagues who focus their research on animal studies, Gorelick's enthusiasm was dampened.

The other researchers, says Gorelick, weren't that impressed. He says that the method would have to be carefully tested in rats to see if the drug was adequately reaching all the areas in the brain it needed to.

Larry B. Goldstein, MD, a member of the AHA's Stroke Council and an associate professor of medicine at Duke University, says there is a very big difference between the olfactory nerves in rats and olfactory nerves in humans because a much larger part of a rat's brain is dedicated solely to the sense of smell.

Frey agrees that rats have a more developed sense of smell but he adds that the trigeminal nerve, "is proportionally the same size in rats and humans." He says that "trigeminal nerves also hang down into the nasal cavity, and so the drug can just as easily travel along that [nerve] pathway."

Goldstein does, however, agree that a nerve route could provide a speedy pathway to the brain. Speed is important to stroke researchers, whose motto is "Time is brain," meaning that the longer the blood supply to the brain is cut off, the more brain cells are destroyed.

Frey, who says that the idea for the nose drops came to him "in a dream," says he has patented his "Method for Administering Neurologic Agents to the Brain" in the United States and several other countries. He says that more research needs to be done but suggests that he may pursue that research in partnership with a drug company.

And, if you think that nose drops to treat stroke sound like something Dr. McCoy would use on Captain Kirk, what about a laser that takes aim at blood clots deep inside the brain and pulverizes them? That's exactly what a new device called an Endovascular Photo Acoustic Recanalization laser, or EPAR for short, is supposed to do.

Helmi Lutsep, MD, of the Oregon Stroke Center at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, is one of several researchers who tested the new laser in a safety trial. Based on that trial, the FDA has given the go-ahead for larger studies.

Lutsep says the new laser, which was tested in 26 stroke patients, is small enough to be used in most blood vessels in the brain. Earlier lasers were too large or inflexible to be used in small vessels, she says.

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