Nanoparticle delivery tech targets rare lung disease

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

iStock/Akelomongkol
iStock/Akelomongkol
Researchers at London, UK-based Imperial College are developing a technology to transport drugs directly to the lungs of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) patients.

The technology consists of ethanol-heated iron and trans-trans muconic acid nanoparticles that can be small molecule drug actives.

These particles can be delivered directly to the site of the disease according to lead researcher Jane Mitchell, who told us the targeted approach bypasses the toxicity issues that have held back development of less targeted, systemic nanomedicines.

“One of the biggest limitations in nanomedicine is toxicity, some of the best nanomedicine structures do not make it past the initial stages of development, as they kill cells,” ​said Mitchell.

However in a study published in Pulmonary Circulation​, researchers explain that these metallic structures - called metal organic frameworks​ (MOF) – are not harmful to cells.

“We made these prototype MOFs, and have shown they were not toxic to a whole range of human lung cells,” ​Mitchell told us.

“The hope is that using this approach will ultimately allow for high concentrations of drugs we already have, to be delivered to only the vessels in the lung, and reduce side effects,” ​she said.

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH)

PAH is a rare lung disease caused by changes to the smaller branches of the pulmonary arteries. The artery walls thicken, and eventually cause organ failure.

While no cure exists, treatments that open up blood vessels in the artery wall are available. According to Mitchell, these treatments can produce negative side effects.

“The drugs available ​[for PAH] are all small molecule drugs which are seriously limited by systemic side effects. Therefore delivering these drugs to the site of disease in our metal organic frame-work (MOF) carrier would represent a paradigm step forward in technology to treat this disease,”​ she said.

Further, researchers believe the MOF technology has therapeutic benefits of its own.

“We know that the carriers can have therapeutic benefits in their own right such as reducing inflammation and, in the case of our formation, the potential for imaging,” ​said Mitchell.

“For patients with PAH, it could mean we are able to turn it from a fatal condition, to a chronic manageable one,” ​she said.

According to Mitchell, the technology is not expensive at the experimental level, and would be scaled up at commercial level.

“We now need to perform proof of concept studies using carriers containing drugs in cell and animal based models. With funding, this will be complete within 2 years,”​ she Mitchell.

Upon completion of clinical trials, the University hopes to license out the technology.

Related topics: Delivery technologies, Drug Delivery

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