Tiny, biodegradable particles filled with medicine may also contain answers to some of the biggest human health problems, including cancer and tuberculosis. The secret is the size of the package.
Using an innovative technique they invented, a Princeton University-led research team has created particles that can deliver medicine deep into the lungs or infiltrate cancer cells while leaving normal ones alone. Only 100 to 300 nanometers wide -- more than 100 times thinner than a human hair -- the particles can be loaded with medicines or imaging agents, like gold and magnetite, that will enhance the detection capabilities of CT scans and MRIs.
"The intersection of materials science and chemistry is allowing advances that were never before possible," said Robert Prud'homme, a Princeton chemical engineering professor and the director of a National Science Foundation-funded team of researchers at Princeton, the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University. "No one had a good route to incorporate drugs and imaging agents in nanoparticles."
Prud'homme will discuss the work April 11 in a talk titled "How Size Matters in the Retention of Nanomaterials in Tissue," to be given at the National Academy of Sciences meeting on Nanomaterials in Biology and Medicine in Washington, D.C.
The new technique, dubbed "Flash NanoPrecipitation," allows the researchers to mix drugs and materials that encapsulate them. Similar mixing techniques previously have been used to create bulkier pharmaceutical products and have proven practical on a commercial scale. The Princeton-led team, which includes chemical engineering professors Yannis Kevrekidis and Athanassios Panagiotopoulos, is the first to apply the technology to the creation of nanoparticles, which are particles measured in billionths of meters.
The nanoparticles are too large to pass through the membrane of normal cells, but will pass through larger defects in the capillaries in
Contact: Hilary Parker
Princeton University, Engineering School