Researchers at MIT and Brigham Women’s Hospital have developed a new type of nanoparticle that can be orally ingested and absorbed via the digestive tract, thus making the drugs more useful as they do not have to be delivered through injections.
Drugs delivered via nanoparticles can be used to treat diseases including cancer and diabetes.
The researchers illustrate how the oral delivery of insulin in mice was made possible in a paper that appears in the November 27th online edition of Science Translational Medicine and say that it is possible to encapsulate any type of drug within a nanoparticle. The nanoparticles created by the researchers are coated with antibodies that unlock receptors on the surface of cells that line the intestine and then allow the nanoparticles to enter through the intestinal walls and into the bloodstream.
“It illustrates a very general concept where we can use these receptors to traffic nanoparticles that could contain pretty much anything. Any molecule that has difficulty crossing the barrier could be loaded in the nanoparticle and trafficked across” says Rohit Karnik, MIT Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and one of lead authors of the paper.
The researchers hope to apply the principles of their discovery to the design of nanoparticles that cross other barriers in addition to the intestinal wall. Omid Farokhzad, Director of the Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials at Brigham and also a lead author of the paper says that “if you can penetrate the mucosa in the intestine, maybe next you can penetrate the mucosa in the lungs, maybe the blood-brain barrier, maybe the placental barrier.”
Work is being done to optimize drug release from the nanoparticles and conduct further animal testing with either insulin or other drugs.