Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have developed nanoparticles that can shuttle chemicals through the thick mucus membranes of pulmonary airways to deliver drugs. The team’s work was published in the journal Science Advances.
Traditional therapies for cystic fibrosis, COPD and asthma include inhaled corticosteroids that adhere to the walls of air passages. Thick mucus tends to build up inside such passageways, creating a challenge for any delivery system.
Instead of trying to make the therapeutics more effective, the team engineered nanoparticles that were small enough to fit through the mucus membranes and get directly to the lining of the lungs. The researchers crafted what they referred to as “mucus-penetrating particles” – nanoparticles that penetrate the mucus membrane, remain in the lungs and release medication for an extended length of time.
The nanoparticles were composed of biodegradable materials that previous work has shown are safe for internal use. The researchers tested their particles in mice and reported that the carriers stayed in the lungs for several hours and were more effective than traditional treatments at reducing asthma symptoms, such as irritation.
The team suggested that their mucus-penetrating particles could offer a more effective treatment plan for patients suffering from lung conditions by providing a treatment that maintains therapeutic drug concentrations and reduces the need for repeat dosing.