Nature-inspired artificial cilia could help move drugs to a target

Natural cilia in the lungs--Courtesy of Charles Daghlian

Like the tiny organelles used to propel some bacteria, artificial cilia developed by German engineers could someday help deliver drugs.

Researchers at Kiel University have built nano-sized reproductions of natural cilia such as the ones in the human respiratory system that keep harmful pathogens from affecting lung function. These artificial cilia can be used to improve delivery by "pushing" particles along in a targeted manner.

However, getting the cilia to move in an organized way was a challenge. The researchers attached a unidirectional switch that directs each cilium to beat in a certain way in order to make them more uniformly effective. The team also put a molecular "suction cup" on each cilium that would help it adhere to drug delivery vehicles, particularly those made with gold nanoparticles.

These artificial cilia come together to form sheets that resemble epithelium layers found in nature, according to an article from the Guardian Liberty Voice. These could, like their natural counterparts, help carry drugs through the bloodstream to a targeted site.

The researchers published the study in the journal European Journal of Organic Chemistry.

- here's the GLV story