There are many strategies to improve drug delivery, which in turn improve the therapeutic effect while reducing unwanted side effects. Researchers in this study look at nanoparticles that can penetrate through mucus instead of adhering to mucus, as a system to deliver drugs to treat lung diseases.


Many medical drugs can be effective, but a common obstacle is how the drug is delivered to the intended site. There are many groups studying technologies for the delivery and controlled release of drugs to improve their effectiveness. One emerging method by which drugs are being delivered is through the use of nanoparticles. These are tiny engineered particles that can hold and release drugs over time. If these particles can be given in the area where the drug is supposed to act, the dose of drug can be lowered, resulting in lower side effects. Many lung diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and lung cancer require treatment that could be administered through inhalable nanoparticles. A new study published in Science Advances looked at using nanoparticles to deliver drugs to the lung in a mouse model.

Other groups have worked on mucoadhesive particles (MAP), which will stick to mucus in the airways in an attempt to have the particles remain in the lung for longer. However, the authors of this study aimed to use mucus-penetrating particles (MPP) which can go through layers of mucus in the lung to see whether they can function better than the MAP. This study first compared how well the two types of nanoparticles could diffuse through samples of human mucus. MPP were able to move a lot (around 800 times) more in the mucus than MAP. To confirm that this can happen in an actual lung setting, mice were administered these particles through the nose. The MPP particles were well dispersed in the lung, did not stick together, and penetrated into the lung well. Furthermore, these MPP particles remained in the lungs for a longer period of time than the MAP particles. Lastly, to determine the effectiveness of these particles, they treated mice with lung inflammation. These mice were given either a steroid by itself, MPP loaded with the steroid, or MAP loaded with the steroid. Mice that were treated with MPP loaded with steroid had the best outcomes, demonstrating that MPP can be an effective drug delivery strategy.

The experiments from this study show that previous strategies by different groups using MAP could be improved upon by using MPP. The MPP can penetrate through mucus into deeper areas in the lung and remain in the lung for longer. This method of drug delivery can also be applicable to many different lung diseases. More studies using MPP loaded with other drugs can verify the effectiveness of this strategy and hopefully this improved technology can be applied to a large variety of lung diseases.


Written By: Branson Chen, BHSc

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