by YONA GIDALEVITZ on Dec 3, 2013

Nanoparticles very well may be the future of healthcare as they are currently on the edge of medical research. Scientists across the globe are utilizing the unique properties of nanoparticles to develop new treatment techniques, as well as targeted drug delivery systems, however most of these rely on the introduction of nanoparticles into the bloodstream. Currently, this has only been achieved parenterally, such as through intravenous injections, limiting the scope of the nanoparticles’ usefulness — for some patients injections may not be an option or may pose a serious inconvenience.

Researchers from MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston have potentially addressed this concern with what they are calling the ‘pill of the future’ that contains hundreds, if not thousands, of drug-carrying nanoparticles. Such a pill, however, faces the daunting task of crossing the intestinal lining — a wall of epithelial cells that join together to form virtually impenetrable barriers called tight junctions. Rather than disrupting the intestinal epithelium, which could pose a serious health risk to the patient by introducing bacteria to other parts of the body, the researchers addressed this potential roadblock by targeting the encapsulated nanoparticles to the neonatal Fc receptor protein, an efficient transepithelial transport vehicle.

The apparent success of this technique seems to indicate that in the not-too-distant future, physicians may be able to administer targeted chemotherapy drugs, insulin doses, or even high-tech biosensors in the form of a pill. The researchers are also hopeful that the success of this transepithelial nanoparticle transport technique may offer insight into crossing other barriers, such as the blood-brain barrier, the mucosa in the lungs, or the placental barrier, allowing targeted drug delivery to areas previously unreachable through the bloodstream.

From the study in Science Translational Medicine:

“In mice, orally administered FcRn-targeted nanoparticles crossed the intestinal epithelium and reached systemic circulation with a mean absorption efficiency of 13.7%*hour compared with only 1.2%*hour for nontargeted nanoparticles. In addition, targeted nanoparticles containing insulin as a model nanoparticle-based therapy for diabetes were orally administered at a clinically relevant insulin dose of 1.1 U/kg and elicited a prolonged hypoglycemic response in wild-type mice. “


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