Engineers develop concentrated proteins to simplify, transform drug delivery

Right now, protein biopharmaceuticals are fairly diluted and administered intravenously at a hospital. A group of researchers from The University of Texas at Austin promise to transform the nature of those drugs, with a densely packed group of proteins they've developed that could allow formulations for safer and more effective use at home.

The finding, detailed in the ASC Nano journal, is a long way from changing how drugs are formulated and delivered. More research will be necessary in animals and humans to prove the concepts true. But if subsequent research succeeds, it could transform how treatments are delivered for ailments from infectious disease to cancer and arthritis, the researchers argue. Rather than force a patient to sit at a hospital as cancer drugs or other protein biopharmaceutical treatments are administered intravenously, the new group of proteins is designed to allow for drug delivery formulations that patients could inject at home. The researchers believe that the new group of densely packed proteins could also allow for more precisely targeted and safer treatments.

Lead researcher Keith Johnston was bold enough to refer to the finding as "a disruptive innovation that could transform how we fight diseases." Johnston is a chemical engineering professor at UTA's Cockrell School of Engineering.

Basically, as researchers explain, they've developed a new physical form of proteins, packed into high concentrations but in nanometer-sized clusters. At that size, they could pass through a needle into a patient, the researchers believe. Further, unlike those in previous attempts, the new proteins are dense enough not to unfold or form aggregates that could harm patients, they note.

- here's the release
- read the journal abstract

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