, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 231-253

Determinants of Passive Drug Entry into the Central Nervous System

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Abstract

1. The blood–brain barriers restrict the passive diffusion of many drugs into the brain and constitute a significant obstacle in the pharmacological treatment of central nervous system diseases and disorders. The degree of restriction they impose is variable, with some lipid-insoluble drugs effectively excluded from the brain, while many lipid-soluble drugs do not appear to be subject to any restriction.

2. The ease with which any particular drug diffuses across the blood–brain barrier is determined largely by the number and strength of intermolecular forces “holding” it to surrounding water molecules. By quantifying the molecular features that contribute to these forces, it is possible to predict the in vivo blood–brain barrier permeability of a drug from its molecular structure. Dipolarity, polarizability, and hydrogen bonding ability are factors that appear to reduce permeability, whereas molecular volume (size) and molar refraction are associated with increased permeability.

3. Increasing the passive entry of “restricted” drugs into the central nervous system can be achieved by disrupting the blood–brain barrier (increased paracellular diffusion) or by modifying the structure of “restricted” drugs to temporarily or permanently increase their lipid solubility (increased transcellular permeability).

4. Competitive inhibition of outwardly directed active efflux mechanisms (P-glycoprotein and MRP, the multidrug resistance-related protein) can also significantly increase the accumulation of certain drugs within the central nervous system.