Researchers from Washington State University have designed a novel way to deliver drugs and therapies into cells at the nanoscale, avoiding the usual toxic effects associated with similar procedures in the past. The approach can be used to improve both diagnostic capabilities and treatment effectiveness for countless illnesses.
Professor Yuehe Lin and senior scientist Chunlong Chen led the research team that developed the biologically inspired materials at the nanoscale that made possible delivery of model therapeutic genes into tumor cells. Several key issues had to be overcome, including minimizing toxicity, which proved to be difficult than previously considered.
The resulting study details some of the characteristics of the flower-like particle. It’s about 150 nanometers in size, approximately one thousand times smaller than the width of a piece of paper. It is made of sheets of peptoids, which are similar to natural peptides that make up proteins.
Since they are easy to synthesize and quite similar to natural biological materials, peptoids make for ideal delivery particles and also work well in biological systems. The artificial nanoflowers had fluorescent probes added, so that researchers could trace them as they made their way through cells. Flourine was included to help them escape more easily from tricky cellular traps that often impede drug delivery.
Initial testing showed that the particles were able to make their way smoothly out of the predicted cellular trap, enter the heart of the cell, and release their drug there.
“The nanoflowers successfully and rapidly escaped (the cell trap) and exhibited minimal cytotoxicity”, noted Dr. Lin. “This paves a new way for us to develop nanocargoes that can efficiently deliver drug molecules into the cell and offers new opportunities for targeted gene therapies”.
The next step is to try other drugs and eventually develop this technology into applicable therapies.
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