Intrathecal delivery of protein therapeutics to the brain: A critical reassessment

Pericles Calias*, William A. Banks, David Begley, Maurizio Scarpa, Patricia Dickson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Citations (Scopus)


Disorders of the central nervous system (CNS), including stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, and brain tumors, are the world's leading causes of disability. Delivery of drugs to the CNS is complicated by the blood-brain barriers that protect the brain from the unregulated leakage and entry of substances, including proteins, from the blood. Yet proteins represent one of the most promising classes of therapeutics for the treatment of CNS diseases. Many strategies for overcoming these obstacles are in development, but the relatively straightforward approach of bypassing these barriers through direct intrathecal administration has been largely overlooked. Originally discounted because of its lack of usefulness for delivering small, lipid-soluble drugs to the brain, the intrathecal route has emerged as a useful, in some cases perhaps the ideal, route of administration for certain therapeutic protein and targeted disease combinations. Here, we review blood-brain barrier functions and cerebrospinal fluid dynamics and their relevance to drug delivery via the intrathecal route, discuss animal and human studies that have investigated intrathecal delivery of protein therapeutics, and outline several characteristics of protein therapeutics that can allow them to be successfully delivered intrathecally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-122
Number of pages9
JournalPharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Central nervous system
  • Drug delivery
  • Intracerebroventricular
  • Intrathecal
  • Recombinant proteins


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