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article imageEssential Science: Delivering drugs via nanoscale emulsion

By Tim Sandle     Dec 18, 2017 in Science
Researchers have used nanotechnology to improve drug delivery. This is in the form of tailorable nanoscale emulsions which effectively interact with their intended targets.
Getting medications to the right locations in the human body, to a target site, and then ensuring that the drug is delivered at the correct rate is complex and challenging. The accuracy of this process – of drug delivery – is critical for treating diseases like cancer. The new research offers a new innovation for the targeted delivery of medicines.
Various innovations are being considered for drug delivery and many of these have been highlighted by Digital Journal. These include drug-delivery micromotors to deliver a therapeutic agent to treat bacterial infections of the stomach; virus particles, which normally infect potatoes, that have been adapted to act as cancer drug delivery devices; and a spider venom peptide which has been genetically engineered as the means to deliver biomacromolecules directly into a cell.
The new development comes from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, which is based at the University of Queensland. The development has come about through advances with molecular imaging and engineered vaccines and it is based on the controlled assembly of multifunctional nanoparticles.
At the core are tailorable nanoscale emulsions. These are ‘tuneable’, where the emulsions can be manipulated in a sequential stepwise fashion. This process provides considerable flexibility in order to control the interfacial characteristics of an oil-in-water emulsion containing nano-sized oil droplets. The resultant nano-emulsion can function as a soft nano-carrier for drug delivery.
An example of some nano-sized molecular machinery made with 3D models.
An example of some nano-sized molecular machinery made with 3D models.
NASA via Wikimedia Commons
The development made use of X-ray reflectometry, using equipment housed at the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering. X-ray reflectivity is a surface-sensitive analytical technique used to characterize surfaces, thin films and multilayers. The technique involves the reflection a beam of x-rays from a flat surface; this allows the intensity of x-rays reflected to be measured and a density profile of an object to be obtained. This technique allowed the researchers to determine the thickness of the engineered molecules.
The nano- emulsions used by the researchers were stabilized with a unique protein anchoring surfactant called DAMP4 and later functionalized with a polymer polyethylene glycol. The polymer is critical for reducing non-specific interactions at the surface.
The research findings have been published in the journal Soft Matter. The research paper is titled “Insights into the interfacial structure–function of poly(ethylene glycol)-decorated peptide-stabilised nanoscale emulsions.”
In related drug delivery news, a new study, discussed on Digital Journal’s science pages, has reported success, in terms of drug delivery, with the unusual combination of garlic and fluorine. This partly relates to garlic’s use as a traditional medicine.
Essential Science
Reindeer in Norwegian arctic region showing distinct pink coloration at tip of nose.
Reindeer in Norwegian arctic region showing distinct pink coloration at tip of nose.
Kia Krarup Hansen
This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue. Last week we took a seasonal diversion and highlighted the work that has gone into mapping the reindeer genome, something that is important for species conservation.
The week before we looked at a fascinating development in biology: evolution in action, with finches of one species being observed evolving into another. What made this poignant, was the fact that this was occurring on the island group where Charles Darwin undertook his pioneering studies on natural selection.
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