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Nanoparticles could deliver medication

Researchers in the US have created nanosized particles that can penetrate the body's mucus secretions to deliver a sustained-release medication

An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the US has created biodegradable, nanosized particles that can penetrate the body's mucus secretions to deliver a sustained-release medication.

The researchers say these nanoparticles, which degrade over time into harmless components, could one day carry life-saving drugs to patients suffering from dozens of health conditions.

Cystic fibrosis expert Pamela Zeitlin, a professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and director of pediatric pulmonary medicine at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center believes that nanoparticles could be an ideal means of delivering drugs to people with cystic fibrosis, a disease that kills children and adults by altering the mucus barriers in the lung and gut.

"Cystic fibrosis mucus is notoriously thick and sticky and represents a huge barrier to aerosolised drug delivery," she said. "In our study, the nanoparticles were engineered to travel through cystic fibrosis mucus at a much greater velocity than ever before, thereby improving drug delivery. This work is critically important to moving forward with the next generation of small molecule and gene-based therapies."

The nanoparticles also could be used to help treat disorders such as lung and cervical cancer, and inflammation of the sinuses, eyes, lungs and gastrointestinal tract, said Benjamin C Tang, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

"Chemotherapy is typically given to the whole body and has many undesired side effects," he said. "If drugs are encapsulated in these nanoparticles and inhaled directly into the lungs of lung cancer patients, drugs may reach lung tumours more effectively, and improved outcomes may be achieved, especially for patients diagnosed with early stage, non-small cell lung cancer."

In a related research report, the group showed that the particles can efficiently encapsulate several chemotherapeutics, and that a single dose of drug-loaded particles was able to limit tumour growth in a mouse model of lung cancer for up to 20 days.

5th January 2010

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