A multinational team of researchers based in the UK has found a way to make carbon nanotubes easily cross biological barriers, opening up the potential for a new form of drug delivery// .
UK-based researchers from the School of Pharmacy, University of London, chemically modified carbon nanotubes by adding a range of different functional groups and found that they were able to enter a variety of cell types, including human cancer cells.
Carbon nanotubes have shown potential as a form of drug delivery, but there is a major setback in that they are highly insoluble in their unmodified form.
”This makes them impossible to handle in the biological environment,” Dr Kosta Kostarelos, deputy head of the Centre for Drug Delivery Research and leader of the research group told In-PharmaTechnologist.com.
It is the functionalisation of the carbon nanotubes that allows them to become water soluble, and therefore able to be used in a biological environment with potential applications as a novel drug delivery method.
”The functionalisation of the nanotubes is therefore hugely important.” Dr Kostarelos continued.
The research team found that the functionalised nanotubes were able to easily cross-cell barriers in mammalian, bacterial and fungal cells without causing cell death, and were even able to enter cells under conditions, which would usually hinder this process.
”The nanotubes moved through the cells as individual nanotubes or as small bundles, even under conditions that inhibit [cell absorption]” said Kostarelos.
”Nanotubes capable of acting as cell-penetrating materials will have tremendous advantages. The potential of functionalised carbon nanotubes to act as nanoneedles that pierce plasma membranes and translocate directly into cytoplasm without causing cell damage or death is significant for a variety of biomedical and biotechnology applications.”
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