The use of liposomes as a drug delivery system could be old news if a new and improved lipid-like nanoparticle lives up to its potential, according to a team of Austrian and American scientists.
Reporting in the open-access journal PLoS ONE today, the scientists from the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), concluded their study of novel nanoparticles had the potential in the future to make drug delivery more efficient by having more control over the delivery system.
The announcement could mean liposomes, which are microscopic spheres made up of a phospholipid bilayer, could be replaced by the new nanobiotechnology.
While liposomes can be manipulated to contain drugs, particularly those that are water-insoluble, they have limited parameters in their delivery mechanism.
In the study, which involved looking at the microscopic interactions in nanoparticles between lipids and man-made lipid-like peptides, which have water-hating and water-loving ends, the scientists found they could change the constituents thereby modulating the internal nanostructure of the particle and so removing the limitations of liposomes.
"The addition of small amounts of designer lipid-like peptides is sufficient to form systems with excellent potential for various biotechnological applications such as the encapsulation of water-insoluble drugs and the delivery of biological active materials," study author Dr Anan Yaghmur said.
The ability to manipulate the nanoparticles meant that in the future they could encapsulate larger amounts of drugs and could be developed to have a slow release mechanism, Yaghmur told in-PharmaTechnologist.com.
"In the future this will be important for safe and efficient drug formulations," the scientist from the Institute of Biophysics and Nanosystems Research at the Austrian Academy of sciences said.
Another advantage the nanoparticles would have over liposomes would be the ability to solubilise both hydrophilic and hydrophobic drugs within the same particle.
In the future, it could also be possible to manufacture the nanoparticle so that it could target particular cells or parts of the body.
Co-author and scientist at the Centre for Biomedical Engineering at MIT said: "Since these lipid-like peptides can be designed, just like to design an elegant watch, an art object, a music instrument, a ski or a pair of sunglasses, we have the ultimate control to the outcome of the structure and their properties."
While the mechanism was still in its infancy - Yaghmur said the nanoparticles may not be marketable until 2020 - the scientist believed there was much potential.
Further studies will now look at the encapsulation of different drugs, how to enhance the bioavailability of the drugs, and in vitro and in vivo studies.
How the nanoparticle would be administered, be it via an injectable nanocarrier or orally, would depend on the type of drug encapsulated.
Nanotechnology is a hot scientific area with a lot of interest. In 2004, worldwide research and development funding in the area was estimated to be $8.4bn (€6.2bn) with 15 per cent of that directed at biological applications of nanotechnology.
The first nanoparticle drug delivery product approved for the market was Abraxane (albumin-bound paclitaxel) from Abraxis Oncology in 2005. The treatment for breast cancer is bound in a nanoparticulate shell constructed from albumin. The average size of a particle is approximately 130 nanometres.