A handful of nanoparticle medicines already have been approved for use treating diseases, particularly cancers. Alexis and other bioengineers are ushering in a new era in medicine.
A challenge for oral medicines, for example, is getting them to do some good before the body destroys them. A patient's metabolism can do its job too well taking a drug out of circulation.
Called "first-pass metabolism," the liver breaks down a drug during its first trip circulating through the body. The result is doctors must use greater amounts of oral medicines to achieve the therapeutic effect. Negative reactions from the higher doses or the inconvenience from prolonged treatment cause many patients to stop taking their medicines.
Nanoparticles can be made to survive the first pass. The particles also can be made to get beyond the body's immune system. Multi-layers on the nanoparticles or nanoshells can resist the body's defenses, enabling the medicine to last longer or reach the intended location.
Dendrimers are nanoparticles that could become the Swiss Army knives of targeted drug delivery. The particles can be made so that a number of different kinds of molecules could be attached to it. One group of molecules could fight the disease, another could enhance images to track the drug, a third could carry a chemical trigger to release the medicine by command from outside the body, another, still, that could send signals about results.
"We are moving ahead in nanoscience in laboratories throughout the world," said Alexis. "Nanoparticle functionalities become more and more complex and the next step is for the research to develop technologies allowing their transfer from the research bench to a pharmaceutical drug. New ways of targeting drugs that will be more effective and safe and more agreeable to patients is just over the horizon."
|Contact: Peter Kent|