Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur have created nanoparticles out of silk fibers that can deliver drugs to specific targets when combined with the protein found in egg whites and blood plasma.
Silk has been used this way for several years now, but when silk is combined with the protein albumin, the resulting nanoparticle is fortified and acts as a stronger delivery material. Silk and albumin proteins stick closely together via a chemical bond, and when the resulting combination encapsulates a drug, it can do so with higher stability than silk alone.
And with higher stability comes more control over when and where a drug is released. The silk-albumin compound prevents leaking, improves encapsulation and increases mechanical and biodegradable traits, the researchers say. Thus, the encapsulated drug can reach specific cells, such as the ones that make up a tumor, without harming healthy ones.
The researchers used the cancer drug methotrexate, 85% of which was released after 12 days. Other drugs with similar properties would work, too, they say. And the material affects neither the viability nor biocompatibility of cells, nor the action of the drug.