They're nontoxic, biodegradable, have uniform size and surface chemistry, ideal for drug delivery and discovered completely by accident at the University of Guelph in Canada. They are called Phytospherix nanoparticles and a company called Mirexus Biotechnologies--based in Flamborough, Ontario--is putting them through trials and attempting to commercialize them.
They appear to have the right idea. The trick to drug delivery is making sure the delivery vehicle can deliver the therapeutic on target, then just go away and not do any harm. These little Phytospherix nanoparticles appear to meet those requirements. "They can serve as non-toxic, biodegradable replacements for current synthetic nanoparticles," U of G physics Professor John Dutcher, one of the particles' discoverers, tells GuelphMercury.com. "It's about being imaginative with the type of molecules you attach to the particles' outside surface to get the function you want."
It sounds exciting because it combines all the best qualities of nanotech-enabled drug delivery without all the baggage that comes with artificially produced nanoparticles whose toxicity is questionable. Unfortunately, applications in drug delivery are just talk at this point.
The paper reports that the Guelph Food Technology Centre is cranking out kilograms of the stuff, enough for researchers and companies to experiment with the nanoparticles and see about incorporating them into their products. Drug delivery? Well, that might take some time. For now, they're talking about applications in paints and cosmetics.