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UGA researchers boost efficacy of drugs by using nanoparticles to target 'powerhouse of cells'
Date:9/19/2012

Athens, Ga. - Nanoparticles have shown great promise in the targeted delivery of drugs to cells, but researchers at the University of Georgia have refined the drug delivery process further by using nanoparticles to deliver drugs to a specific organelle within cells.

By targeting mitochondria, often called "the powerhouse of cells," the researchers increased the effectiveness of mitochondria-acting therapeutics used to treat cancer, Alzheimer's disease and obesity in studies conducted with cultured cells.

"The mitochondrion is a complex organelle that is very difficult to reach, but these nanoparticles are engineered so that they do the right job in the right place," said senior author Shanta Dhar, an assistant professor of chemistry in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Dhar and her co-author, doctoral student Sean Marrache, used a biodegradable, FDA-approved polymer to fabricate their nanoparticles and then used the particles to encapsulate and test drugs that treat a variety of conditions. Their results were published this week in early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

To test the effectiveness of their drug targeting system against cancer, they encapsulated the drug lonidamine, which works by inhibiting energy production in the mitochondria, and, separately, a form of the antioxidant vitamin E. They then treated cultured cancer cells and found that mitochondrial targeting increased the effectiveness of the drugs by more than 100 times when compared to the drugs alone and by five times when compared to the delivery of drugs with nanoparticles that target the outside of cells.

Similarly, the compound curcumin has shown promise in inhibiting formation of the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, but it quickly degrades in the presence of light and is broken down rapidly by the body. By encapsulating curcumin in the mitochondria-targeting
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Contact: Shanta Dhar
shanta@uga.edu
706-542-1012
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert  

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