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Medical tech helps improve drug delivery

In new research, Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research, is experimenting with strongly fluorescent nanocrystals or “quantum dots.” The aim is to see how these shining crystals can be used to assess the accurate delivery of drugs packaged into nanocapsules.

Some medicines have a fluorescence basis they can be tracked and visualized, making their transport and targeting easy to track. However, not all medicines can be tracked in this way. To render medicines traceable, a new research project has been looking at how nanotechnology can help.

With this, A*STAR’s researchers have shown how the uptake of a drug by target cells (such as cancerous cells) is based upon the properties of the nanocapsules used to carry to drug, as opposed to the chemical properties of the drug itself.

In trials, the researchers micro-packaged up an anticancer drug called doxorubicin into nanocapusles. Doxorubicin is inherently fluorescent. This allowed the researchers to study how the drug was absorbed by cancerous cells. Following this, the team demonstrated that when quantum dots (which are semiconductor nanocrystals that glow when struck by light) are added to the nanocapsules instead of doxorubicin, these can be taken in by the cancer cells in the same way.

This means that, when modelling drugs that do not naturally fluoresce, quantum dots can be used instead to track drug delivery. The primary aim of the research is with anti-cancer treatments. With radiation or chemotherapy, the application of the process carries risk. Health cells are often subjected to the anti-cancer treatment, and often the ant-cancer treatment does not fully attack all of the cancerous cells within a tumor. Parts of nanomedicine are using nanoparticles to direct anticancer drugs to tumor sites with greater precision; the focus of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research project is to test how accurate this is and allow for adjustments to be made in preparation for new medicines to be used on patients.

The research has yet to be published in a peer reviewed paper; however, the researchers report, via a research note, that effective progress is being made.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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