It might be possible to insert a pharmaceutical inside a droplet and inject the droplet inside a cell, the scientists said. Could these droplets release their cargo inside a cell?
"We're working on it," said Deming, who designs and engineers molecules. "There's a pretty clear path on how to do that. There are still challenges for drug delivery, but we have demonstrated the key first step, that we can make these double emulsions that are stable in this size range."
The cargo could be a protein toxin that helps to kill the cell. For example, one approach might involve an anticancer drug in the oil and a toxin-protein in the water two molecules trying to kill the cell simultaneously. While a cell can develop resistance to a single drug, the combination approach can be more effective, the scientists said.
Deming and Mason caution that while this approach holds promise for fighting cancer, there are still many steps, and likely many years of research, before patients could be treated in this way. Clinical trials using this research would probably be years off.
"We'll have to do a lot of fine-tuning, but this approach has a lot of advantages," Deming said. "The size of these is a big advantage. We have discovered unique molecular features that can stabilize double emulsions. These are promising, but it's early on, and there are many ways these can fail. But we should at least learn how to make better drug-delivery vehicles."
In future research, Deming and Mason want to make sure the droplets can harmlessly enter cells and release their cargo.
The nanodroplets could potentially be used in cosmetics, soaps and shampoos as well.
Deming's laboratory is trying to take some of the key features that make proteins special and put them into synthetic materials.
|Contact: Phil Hampton|
University of California - Los Angeles