Which vehicle works best? High-speed testing gives drug delivery a boost

Delivery vehicle testing method--Courtesy of MIT

Finding the right delivery vehicle for a drug, one that will let the drug reach its full potential, is an invaluable prospect. And now MIT engineers have developed a way to test these vehicles quickly in vivo to determine which of them will be most efficient in delivering its payload.

The researchers created the high-speed screening process to test RNA delivery vehicles in zebrafish and rodents. The team injected the genetic material within nanoparticles called lipidoids, testing about 100 of the vehicles using a fluorescent protein to determine which of the genetic changes had been taken up in the fish's larvae. At about 14 seconds per fish, the injection system is automated and can target any organ, and it takes only a few hours to finish the analysis, according to the university.

"Biologics is the fastest growing field in biotech, because it gives you the ability to do highly predictive designs with unique targeting capabilities," lead author Mehmet Fatih Yanik said in a statement. "However, delivery of biologics to diseased tissues is challenging, because they are significantly larger and more complex than conventional drugs."

When using the system on the zebrafish, the researchers found that some lipidoids that hadn't worked in in vitro studies did work in vivo. And the translation from zebrafish to rats was about 97%, according to the study, suggesting they are a good model for delivery in mammals.

"By combining this work with our previously published high-throughput screening system, we are able to create a drug-discovery pipeline with efficiency we had never imagined before," co-author Tsung-Yao Chang said.

And now the researchers are looking into how this method can be used to test vehicles to carry drugs across the blood-brain barrier. By focusing on specific problems in drug delivery with this type of data-collection method, the team is looking to create libraries of material for vehicles with the most potential in the delivery arena.

- here's the MIT report

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