OKINAWA, Japan, and DUNEDIN, New Zealand, June 26, 2014 — A system using femtosecond lasers in conjunction with nanotechnology enables targeted and controlled drug delivery, presenting treatment possibilities for Parkinson’s disease and other ailments. Existing drug delivery procedures cannot solely target the intended tissues or organs, resulting in unwanted side effects when the medication reaches areas for which it is not intended. But a team from the femtosecond spectroscopy and neurobiology research units at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), in collaboration with the University of Otago, may have discovered a way to change that. Dopamine does not function properly in those suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Cue the new laser technique, which relies on the precise timing and intensity of femtosecond lasers to control the release of the neurochemical, essentially mimicking the brain’s natural mechanism. A dopamine-filled liposome is tethered to a gold nanoparticle. The liposome is then activated with a femtosecond laser, releasing the dopamine. Courtesy of Scientific Reports. In the study, the researchers encapsulated dopamine in a liposome that was attached to a gold nanoparticle. The nanoparticle absorbs a laser pulse’s energy and transfers it to the liposome, which releases the dopamine. The amount of dopamine administered can be controlled by the laser’s intensity. “With this method, we can administer a wide range of drugs with precise timing and duration using laser pulses with sub-second accuracy,” said Dr. Takashi Nakano, a researcher in the OIST Neurobiology Research Unit. The researchers now plan to test the new laser technique on living tissue, and eventually on a live animal. The research was published in Scientific Reports (doi: 10.1038/srep05398). For more information, visit www.oist.jp.