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Scientists Unveil "Nanoparticle Drug Factories"

| 28 Jun 2012 18:47
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With development, these clever particles could revolutionize how we consume drugs.

As crucial and useful as pills and injections are for our continued health, there are situations in which these methods of drug delivery have the potential to do more harm than good. To deal with situations of this kind, a team of researchers has developed micro- and nanoparticles capable of synthesizing drugs within a patient's bloodstream. The work was published in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

The particles themselves are composed of a protective layer that encapsulates a drug factory of sorts. The factories are equipped with DNA and certain types of protein-making machinery similar to the kind found in living cells; thus, when commanded to, the particles are able to synthesize proteins and dispense them directly into the bloodstream.

The team behind the nanoparticles, led by Daniel Anderson, posit that the particles could be the start of a new approach to administering drug therapies. With enough refinement, the particles could be programmed to release specific protein-based drugs in response to external commands.

While many modern drugs are based on proteins of the same kinds as used in the particles, they can't be administered directly to specific areas in the body. If they work in humans, the nanoparticles would be able to eliminate that risk at the same time as removing the need for patients ingest (or otherwise process) their drugs.

The nanoparticles have already been shown to produce the correct proteins when subjected to laser light in both sterile lab settings, and inside the bodies of laser-lit test mice. When deprived of the stimulus of the laser, the particles shut down and generally behaved themselves while awaiting further instruction.

The potential applications for this technology, with sufficient advancements, are myriad and generally pretty interesting. What's waiting to be discovered and developed during the refinement of this technology could be potentially even more exciting; if the "point a laser at it" technique loses its shine, for instance, what sort of chemical or ingrained triggers could be created to control the particles?

Source: Science Daily

Image: American Chemical Society

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