Monday, August 02, 2010

4 examples of researchers sizing up nanoparticles in drug development

We here at Stinson Brand Innovation have been following research using nanoparticles in many applications of drug development:  treatments for tumors, infections, and brain diseases, as well as for imaging techniques that enhance visualization of molecular-scale events in brain tissue and culture dishes.

In a recent article in The Scientist, biochemist Michael Sailor of the University of California-San Diego, says the technology for designing nanoparticles “is kind of like where we were when we were building Model T cars.”

Creating nanoparticles — which are usually between 1 and 100 nanometers long and made from a variety of materials — and putting them to work within complex biological systems can be quite a challenge and it’s not something scientists do alone. Rather, the field of medical nanotechnology requires expertise from material scientists, engineers, and biologists, says Sailor.

There are a number of parameters to play with. For example, researchers might see that they can alter their particles’ shapes and sizes through simple changes to their preparation steps. These can lead to better targeting to the right organs, or extended release of a drug. Alternatively, scientists might be able to combine two less-than-stellar nanoparticle techniques to create a synergistic system. Maybe they’ll need to create an entirely new nanoparticle, ideally one that’s biodegradable if you eventually plan to use it in humans. These challenges require patience, but if done right, the quantity of nanoparticles produced can be easily scaled up.

Kelly Rae Chi, a writer for The Scientist, spoke with four researchers on the cutting edge of nanoparticle design. Click here to read what they said about the challenges and opportunities nanoparticles bring to drug development.

1.      Shape Shifting

Project: Designing nanoparticles to treat infectious diseases
User: Padma Devarajan, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technology, University of Mumbai, India

2.      Cooperative Particles

Project: Nanoparticle design for cancer diagnosis and therapy
User: Michael Sailor, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California–San Diego

3.      Cleaving Chitosan

Project: Designing nanoparticles for extended-release drug delivery to the eye
User: Hong-Ru Lin, Professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Southern Taiwan University, Tainan

4.      Penetrating Mucus

Project: Designing nanocarriers that penetrate human mucus barriers
User: Justin Hanes, Professor of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

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