Researchers have developed a new form of nanoparticles called “connectosomes” that can efficiently deliver chemotherapy to human cells more efficiently than traditional delivery methods, according to a report out of the University of Texas at Austin.
The team, who published their research in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, equipped the connectosomes with gap junctions to create direct channels that could be used to deliver chemotherapy to individual cells.
“Gap junctions are the cells’ mechanism for sharing small molecules between neighboring cells. We believed that there must be a way to utilize them for better drug delivery,” biomedical engineering professor Jeanne Stachowiak said in a prepared statement. “The big challenge was in making the materials efficiently and showing that the drugs are delivered through the gap junctions and not some other component.”
Because the gap junctions allow for delivery to individualized cells,chemotherapy doses are substantially reduced. This significantly decreases the toxic side effects patients experience from chemotherapy, according to the team. They also envision that this method could effectively treat metastasized cancer that is out of reach for traditional chemotherapy delivery techniques.
“Connectosomes could open doors for the improved utilization of nanoparticles to deliver other types of therapies,” Avinash Gadok, a doctoral student in the Cockrell School of Engineering, said. “A huge advantage of nanoparticles is that they can target cells, which helps protect off-target tissues.”
In-vitro tests with human cells showed that chemotherapy delivered through connectosomes is 10 times as efficient as freely delivered chemotherapy. The team’s newly developed nanoparticles are favorable compared to traditional nanoparticles, because a drug can diffuse through a gap junction more efficiently than across a lipid membrane.
“We would like to see whether this approach could delay metastasis while treating the tumor,” Stachowiak said. “It would be nice to have a multipronged approach where you have a particle that slows down metastasis, rapidly delivers drugs and turns off expression of genes that are promoting the migration of tumor cells.”