Microchip coated with cells gives insight into nanoparticle penetration

A model shows how the microchip detects permeability of a cell wall when exposed to nanoparticles.--Courtesy of  PNAS

MIT professor and entrepreneur Robert Langer is behind another innovative nanotechnology application for drug delivery, this time helping develop a model that could help researchers understand the way nanoparticles penetrate blood vessel walls.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology coated a microchip with a thin layer of endothelial, or interior, blood vessel cells. Applying nanoparticles to the microchip, the bioengineers were able to observe how they cross the endothelial cells when the layer is broken down as in patients with atherosclerosis. With this model, they could eventually optimize the nanoparticles' design, according to a report from GIT, by controlling the microchip's environment.

The team published its study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"In the future, we can make microchips that are much more similar to what's going on in animal models, or even human beings, compared to the conventional cell culture dish studies," lead author YongTae "Tony" Kim said in a statement. "This is better than an in vitro dish experiment, but it's not going to perfectly replicate what's going on inside the body in the near future. It will help make this whole process faster and save a number of animals."

By understanding better how nanoparticles could target vessel walls in atherosclerosis, and creating a platform that could be used to better understand nanoparticle targeting in general, the researchers hope to speed up the approval process of nanotech delivery systems, which is a very slow process currently. Few are approved by the FDA now.

"This is a wonderful example of developing a novel nanotechnology approach to address an important medical problem," Langer said. Kim studied under Langer at MIT.

- here's the GIT report
- and here's the abstract

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