January 15, 2010

2 Min Read
Biodegradable Nanoparticles Bypass Mucus, Offer Drug-Delivery Platform



Biodegradable nanoparticles, which  display a polymer coating as a red fluorescent glow, have the ability to penetrate mucus barriers in the body to deliver drugs. Photo by Jie Fu/JHU

Biodegradable nanosized particles developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore) are capable of easily penetrating mucus in the body, which is notoriously considered a barrier for many medical treatments. If employed in drug-delivery platforms, these materials could improve treatment of such conditions as cystic fibrosis.Previous research has focused on coating latex particles with polyethylene glycol (PEG); however, latex is not an optimal material because the body cannot break it down, according to the scientists.The Johns Hopkins researchers thus experimented with developing an inner core made up of polysebacic acid and a dense outer coating of PEG. This construction allows the materials to pass through mucus barriers typically problematic to other medications, offer controlled drug delivery and release, and then degrade naturally into the body."The major advance here is that we were able to make biodegradable nanoparticles that can rapidly penetrate thick and sticky mucus secretions, and that these particles can transport a wide range of therapeutic molecules, from small molecules such as chemotherapeutics and steroids to macromolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids," says Justin Hanes, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. "Previously, we could not get these kinds of sustained-release treatments through the body's sticky mucus layers effectively."In addition to contributing to the treatment of cystic fibrosis, which alters mucus barriers, the materials could allow for more-effective drug-delivery platforms to treat lung and cervical cancer and inflammation of the sinuses, eyes, lungs, and GI tract.

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