Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery, by Remote Control

Professor Paras N. Prasad, Ph.D. (executive director of University of Buffalo‘s Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics and SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry in the UB College of Arts and Sciences) was a co-author with colleagues from the University of Buffalo‘s Photodynamic Therapy Center at Roswell Park Cancer Institute on a paper published in Molecular Pharmaceutics on April 19, 2006: “Diacyllipid Micelle-Based Nanocarrier for Magnetically Guided Delivery of Drugs in Photodynamic Therapy”.

This paper resulted from a work carried out by Professor Prasad and his colleagues and demonstrated that a nanoparticle-based drug delivery system directed by an applied magnetic field lead to the accumulation in tumour cells of nanocarriers custom-designed and drug-filled.

The magnetic field (externally applied) played the role of remote control. This magnetic field remote control directed the nanocarriers to the targeted area in the cell culture. Once the magnetic field was applied (switched on) the concentration of drug inside the tumour cells in the target area showed an increase.

The team of Professor Prasad achieved these results with a novel nanocarrier system, developed from polymer micelles, consisting on nanosized water-dispersible clusters of polymeric molecules.

Professor Prasad explained that polymeric micelles are excellent nanocarriers for photodynamic therapy (PDT) drugs, which are mostly water-insoluble.

When exposed to laser light (in other PDT studies, other wavelength may be used), these drugs generate toxic molecules that destroy the cancer cells.

Along with the PDT drug, the team of Professor Prasad encapsulated inside the nanocarriers iron oxide nanoparticles, which allowed them to respond to externally applied magnetic fields.

The in vitro results showed that magnetically guided delivery to tumour cells of these customized nanocarriers proved to be a more precise targeting, while boosting cellular uptake of the PDT drugs contained inside them.

The in vitro results were supported by confocal microscopy studies.

The main undesirable side-effect associated with cancer PDT is the patient’s strong sensitivity to light for four to six weeks after treatment, a result of PDT drugs that accumulate in the skin.

The relevance of this highly innovative approach work of Professor Prasad and his team stands on the following:

  • The use of magnetophoretic control to deliver PDT drug to tumour cells resulting in increased accumulation inside those cells (tumours show the propensity to retain higher concentrations of photosensitive drugs than normal tissues);
  • Shows potential to reduce drug accumulation in normal tissues;
  • It will open doors to treatments that explore more deeply the advantages of nanotechnology-based PDT drug delivery as well as the technique optimization;
  • Shows a wide range of applications for a variety of disease areas, including neurological disease and cardiac disease;
  • Opens doors to a wide range of innovation in the nanotechnology-based medical devices industry.

Regarding this last point, in a near future the patient will be in the bedside and close to her/him will be a computer equipped with powerful software that controls remotely the drug delivery to the patient.

On a more advanced phase of innovation, portable, personal and affordable medical devices will be available for patients, avoiding her/his staying at the hospital bedside (depending on the advance of the disease).

Nanotechnology in drug delivery and nanotechnology in medical and biomedical diagnostics have many cross roads, since both fields share technologies, strategic approaches and targeting concerns.

Thus, on an even more advanced phase of innovation, those portable, personal and affordable medical devices will be able to perform nanotechnology-based diagnostics and nanotechnology-based drug delivery, on a context of personalized medicine. Those medical devices will be the first generation of nanotechnology-based theranostics medical devices: nanotheranostics medical devices.

Search and destroy. Better saying: detect early and cure.

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