NANOTECHNOLOGY MEETS NATURE IN THE FUTURE OF DRUG DELIVERY
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Better ways to deliver drugs to tumors and other targets in the body may come from merging nanotechnology with our body's natural defenses, according to a researcher at Ohio State University.
While much nanotechnology research has focused on using silicon for microscopic medical devices, researchers here are also working on hollow plastic capsules that could one day carry drugs to where they are needed in the body. Such capsules would measure only a few micrometers across, smaller than the width of a human hair.
Derek Hansford, assistant professor at Ohio State's Biomedical Engineering Center, discussed efforts to fabricate these plastic capsules on September 24 in Columbus at the BioMEMS and Biomedical Nanotechnology World 2000 conference, co-sponsored by Ohio State.
Hansford explained that most research in this area has focused
on either harnessing the body's natural defenses, such as antibodies,
to combat cancer and other diseases, or building
As Hansford describes it, Ohio State's drug delivery research is bringing those two ideas together.
"We don't want to completely reinvent nature with artificial devices," Hansford said. "We want to use what we can get from nature to our advantage."
Hansford and his colleagues plan to use nature to help their tiny plastic capsules find tumors and other targets in the body and stick to them.
The body already contains antibodies and other agents that seek out foreign cells and attach to them, Hansford explained.
Plastic capsules coated in antibodies engineered for specific targets could one day enter a person's bloodstream and adhere to the targets before dispensing medication from their hulls, he said.
Plastic is a good choice for a drug-delivery material, Hansford said, because researchers can work with it more easily -- and less expensively -- than silicon.
In his presentation, Hansford showed how he and his colleagues are working toward manufacturing hollow box-shaped plastic capsules for drug delivery.
To work inside the body, the capsules wouldn't have to be round. "On the contrary, capsules with more complex and angular shapes may adhere to targets better," Hansford said.
So far, the Ohio State researchers have succeeded in manufacturing small numbers of the capsules by molding the plastic into shape. In the future, Hansford and his colleagues will investigate ways to mass-produce the capsules.