The research, published in the September 4 edition of Nature, could have implications for the treatment of cancer and other diseases where resistance can form if only one therapeutic is used.
NanoPacific Holdings has licensed the technology with the intention of developing and commercialising it for use in a range of applications.
Timothy Deming, one of the paper’s authors, said: “If we have water-soluble drugs, we can load them inside. If we have water-insoluble drugs, we can load them inside as well. We can deliver them simultaneously.”
Thomas Mason, another author of the work, added: "Here, you effectively combine both types of drug molecules in the same delivery package. This approach could be used for a combination therapy where you want to deliver two drugs simultaneously at a fixed ratio into the same location."
The researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) created a double emulsion with a water droplet within an oil droplet. These two droplets provide distinct pockets that can be loaded with drugs.
Double emulsion droplets have been created in the past but the researchers claim to have made them much smaller and more stable. The current evolution of the droplet is smaller than 100nm, with a nanoemulsion containing billions of individual drug carrying vessels.
Increased stability of the water-in-oil-in-water double emulsions was created over many months using single-component, synthetic amphiphilic diblock copolypeptide surfactants.
The possibilities afforded by having two distinct drug carrying pockets have been explored by the researchers. For instance, by carrying an anticancer drug in the oil and a toxin-protein in the water, cells could be killed more effectively and with less likelihood of resistance forming.
Deming and Mason have said that research into loading the nanoparticles with therapeutics, targeting specific cells and ensuring the drug is released upon entering the cell is now required.
The researchers acknowledge that this process will take some time and is fraught with potential pitfalls. Regardless of his nanoparticles success Deming believes that through the team’s research they “should at least learn how to make better drug-delivery vehicles”.