Scientists from the University of Lincoln, UK, have developed a new method to make smarter drugs using nanotechnology so that they will be more effective at reaching their target.
The new technique for smarter drugs needs scientists to ‘decorate’ gold nanoparticles with a protein of choice so as they can be used to tailor drugs to more accurately target an area of the body, such as a cancer tumour.
Gold nanoparticles – spheres made of gold atoms having a diameter of only a few billionths of a metre – can be coated with drugs to allow the treatment to travel through the body, reaching the affected area.
The nanoparticles can hold drugs on its surface which would otherwise become insoluble or degrade within the blood stream. Due to their small size they can overcome biological barriers such as:
- Skin; and
- The small intestine.
These would normally prevent the treatments from reaching its target.
Nanotechnology in applications
This technology is currently used in applications such as pregnancy tests – the gold nanoparticles decorated with an antibody against the hormone present in the urine of pregnant women is added to the positive strip so as it reacts with the nanoparticles – but is not yet used in drug development.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications found that the new method allows pharmacologists to place proteins onto the nanoparticles in a specific order, maintaining the integrity of the protein so that the drug is more effective.
Until now, the process of coating nanoparticles meant that the proteins had to be mixed together, potentially making them less effective.
Dr Enrico Ferrari, a nanobiotechnologist from the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, who led the study, said: “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.”
By binding nanoparticles there is a possibility that it could be applied to biosensors and diagnostic kits to identify ongoing infections in patients’ blood.