Liposome-based targeting of dopamine to the brain: a novel approach for the treatment of Parkinson's disease

Mol Psychiatry. 2021 Jun;26(6):2626-2632. doi: 10.1038/s41380-020-0742-4. Epub 2020 May 5.


Delivery of drugs into the brain is poor due to the blood brain barrier (BBB). This study describes the development of a novel liposome-based brain-targeting drug delivery system. The liposomes incorporate a diacylglycerol moiety coupled through a linker to a peptide of 5 amino acids selected from amyloid precursor protein (APP), which is recognized by specific transporter(s)/receptor(s) in the BBB. This liposomal system enables the delivery of drugs across the BBB into the brain. The brain-directed liposomal system was used in a mouse model of Parkinson's disease (PD). Intra-peritoneal (IP) administration of liposomes loaded with dopamine (DA) demonstrated a good correlation between liposomal DA dose and the behavioral effects in hemiparkinsonian amphetamine-treated mice, with an optimal DA dose of 60 µg/kg. This is significantly lower dose than commonly used doses of the DA precursor levodopa (in the mg/kg range). IP injection of the APP-targeted liposomes loaded with a DA dose of 800 µg/kg, resulted in a significant increase in striatal DA within 5 min (6.9-fold, p < 0.05), in amphetamine-treated mice. The increase in striatal DA content persisted for at least 3 h after administration, which indicates a slow DA release from the delivery system. No elevation in DA content was detected in the heart or the liver. Similar increases in striatal DA were observed also in rats and mini-pigs. The liposomal delivery system enables penetration of compounds through the BBB and may be a candidate for the treatment of PD and other brain diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain
  • Dopamine
  • Liposomes*
  • Mice
  • Parkinson Disease* / drug therapy
  • Rats
  • Swine
  • Swine, Miniature


  • Liposomes
  • Dopamine