A team of scientists led by Dr Simon Richardson at the University of Greenwich has got a step closer to one of the holy grails of drug delivery.
The goal - to find a vehicle that can carry drugs not just to a specific cell but a specific organ (organelle) inside the cell, and accurately measure how it behaves when it gets there - has proved elusive despite two decades of research, according to the Journal of Controlled Release, a top international scientific publication.
Now the journal has given the new research front page billing, saying in an editorial that Richardson and colleagues provide direct evidence, for the first time, that nanomedicines can be delivered to select organelles and manipulated to carry beneficial agents like genes.
Dr Richardson says: "Drug delivery is important for everyone because it has the potential to deliver new treatments for diseases which are currently incurable; and to deliver existing drugs more effectively."
"We are trying to smuggle healthy genes inside cells. Genes are large molecules which have up till now proved too big to get in without serious risk to the patient. Our research is at the cutting edge of efforts to turn gene therapy, and new molecular medicines, from risky and sci-fiesque to safe and routine."
As well as proving that material like genes can be delivered to the target organelle, the team was also able to show how the delivery vehicle behaves once inside.
Editor of the Journal of Controlled Release, Professor Kinam Park, said the study was "distinguished from others by its thoroughness and unequivocal data" and concludes: "…the approach used by Richardson's team can be useful in developing more efficient delivery vehicles for drug targeting in general."