Penn researchers hone nanocarrier design

In the world of nanotechnological drug delivery, your API-containing molecule is only useful if you can get it to bind to its target. To do so, scientists use external nanocarriers, patterned after antibodies, to lead treatment to afflicted areas and help capsules stick to tissue.

So, the more nanocarriers you use, the more effective your treatment, right? Apparently not, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Using computer models and in vivo studies, the research team discovered that there is a harmonious middle ground between too few nanocarriers and too many, which can pull a molecule in various directions and render it useless.

The researchers designed a multifaceted simulation that could control for molecule size, blood flow and nanocarrier makeup. Comparing the results to real-life experiments allowed them to find the optimal nanocarrier design that would maximize binding without overshooting the goal. "There's a sweet spot where you have just enough [antibodies] so [the nanocarrier] binds to diseased cells, but not so many that it pops off due to instability before it has a chance to deliver the drugs," lead researcher Ravi Radhakrishnan said in a statement.

Furthermore, the team dispelled another prevailing myth: As it turns out, stronger blood flow helps nanomolecules bond more easily. Scientists had long assumed that treatment would be more effective in areas with weaker blood streams, Radhakrishnan said, but it turns out that stronger flow forces the molecule to roll around on the targeted tissue, exposing it to more potential binding sites.

Radhakrishnan said there are likely more misconceptions in the fairly young field of nanotechnology, and only through continued study can researchers refine the practice and facilitate more effective nano treatments. 

- read the story from Penn Current