Posted in | Nanomedicine

Nanotechnology Used to Make Drugs 'Smarter'

A new technique has been formulated to make drugs 'smarter' with the use of nanotechnology so that delivery of drug to the target area will be more effective.

Researchers from the University of Lincoln, UK, have come up with a new method to 'decorate' gold nanoparticles with a preferred protein so they can be used to customize a drug to more accurately target an area on the body, such as a cancerous tumor.

Gold nanoparticles are spheres composed of gold atoms having a diameter of just a few billionths of a meter which can be coated with a biological protein and integrated with drugs to enable the treatment to move through the body and reach the target area.

The nanoparticles can 'adsorb' (hold on its surface) drugs which would otherwise become insoluble or rapidly degrade in the bloodstream, and because of their small size, they can overcome biological barriers such as skin, membranes, and the small intestine which would typically prevent the drug from reaching its target.

The technology can be found already in real-world applications such as pregnancy tests—where gold nanoparticles coated with an antibody against the hormone found in the urine of pregnant women is incorporated into the 'positive' strip so it reacts with the nanoparticles to change the stick red—but is not yet extensively used in drug development.

Thus far the process of coating the nanoparticles meant that the proteins used had to be 'mixed' along with particles which do not possess the ability to regulate the way they bind, probably rendering the drug less effective. The new technique enables pharmacologists to position the proteins onto the gold nanoparticles layer by layer in a particular order. This maintains the integrity of the protein so that the drug is more effective, paving way for the development of nanomedicine.

The details of the research have been reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Gold nanoparticles are a vital tool in new drug development and drug delivery systems. We have unlocked the key to binding proteins and molecules so that those drugs will be more effective.

This method might help to design nanomedicines that do not need extensive chemical modification of a protein drug or a nano-carrier and therefore can be developed more easily and faster.

Dr Enrico Ferrari, Lead Researcher & Nanobiotechnologist from the University of Lincoln's School of Life Sciences

The team took fragments of proteins from flatworms and bacteria, which when fused together were effective at binding to the gold nanoparticle surface and capable of forming firm bonds to any other protein.

By blending this fusion protein with gold nanoparticles, it permanently binds to the gold surface while also being able to firmly bind a target protein on which a particular 'tag' was incorporated.

This is a new universal technique to bind proteins to nanoparticles which will be effective for most proteins, making the process a more appealing prospect for pharmaceutical companies, the researchers said. The technique could also possibly be applied to biosensors and diagnostic kits that use gold, such as those employed in clinical settings to detect ongoing infections in patients' blood.

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