Important advances in the development of drug delivery vehicles

An article in the August 9 issue of Science, co-signed by McGill professor Adi Eisenberg and professor Discher of the University of Pennsylvania, describes important advances in the laboratory synthesis of vesicles and other types of aggregates, which are microscopic structures that have potential applications in the delivery of drugs to the body.

Vesicles are hollow spheres, so small that one thousand of them placed side by side would be as thick as a human hair. These microscopic structures are prepared from synthetic polymer chains, and consist of a thin "skin" of hydrophobic (water-repelling) material, out of which emanate cilia or hair-like structures of a hydrophilic (water-loving) material. Similar structures can also be prepared from naturally occurring small-molecule phospholipids, in which case they are called liposomes.

Since most polymeric systems studied to date have functioned primarily in the delivery of water insoluble drugs, work on vesicles presents a new opportunity in that they can be used to deliver hydrophilic materials to the body. According to Dr. Eisenberg, "block copolymer vehicles are much more robust than liposomes". He and his colleagues have recently succeeded in demonstrating the feasibility of attaching one type of material to the interior surface of the vesicle, with another type of material attached to the exterior surface. A three-way delivery system could be created wherein a targeting species is attached to the exterior of the vehicle, a water-soluble drug is suspended in the interior cavity and incorporated into the wall are water-repellent materials. This means that vesicles and their attachments could be used to deliver both water-soluble and water-repellent medicinal agents, with different species of drugs or targeting moieties associated with the interior or exterior surfaces of a vesicle and where each type of drug is released in the right proportion.

Currently, the simultaneous release of differen

Contact: Adi Eisenberg
McGill University

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