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Contact: Nicole Davis firstname.lastname@example.org 617-823-3468 Brigham and Women’s Hospital @BrighamWomens
Boston, MA A research team led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has developed and tested a novel nanoparticle platform that efficiently delivers clinically important proteins in vivo in initial proof-of-concept tests. Nanoparticles, which are particles measuring nanometers in size, hold promise for a range of applications, including human therapeutics. The key advantage of the new platform, known as a thermosponge nanoparticle, is that it eliminates the need for harsh solvents, which can damage the very molecules the particles are designed to carry.
The study is published online October 21 in Nano Letters.
“A central challenge in applying nanoparticle technology to protein therapeutics is preserving proteins’ biological activity, which can be inactivated by the organic solvents used in nanoparticle engineering,” said Omid Farokhzad, MD, Director of the BWH Laboratory of Nanomedicine and Biomaterials. “Our research demonstrates that the thermosponge platform, which enables the solvent-free loading of proteins, is a promising approach for the delivery of a variety of proteins, including highly labile proteins such as IL-10.”
Protein-based therapeutics form an important class of drugs to treat a range of human diseases. However, significant challenges in their development have generally resulted in very slow development paths. To overcome these challenges, Farokhzad and his colleagues sought to create improved nanoparticle methods for delivering protein therapies.
The new thermosponge nanoparticles (TNPs) they developed are composed of biocompatible and biodegradable polymers. These polymers include a central, spherical core, made of the polymer poly(D,L-lactide), and an outer “thermosponge,” made of a polaxomer polymer. The core can be either positively or negatively charged, to allow for the delivery of negatively or positively charged proteins, respectively. Importantly, the thermosponge shell can expand or contract as temperatures change, which permits the solvent-free loading of proteins onto the TNP.
The researchers selected a range of different proteins for loading onto the TNPs, including positively-charged interleukin-10 (IL-10) and erythropoietin, and negatively-charged insulin and human growth hormone. The proteins showed similar patterns of sustained release for four days after loading, indicating that the TNPs are able to effectively deliver a variety of proteins.
Further tests showed that the proteins loaded onto the TNPs retained their bioactivity throughout both loading and release from the TNPs.
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More and more, COPD is being recognized as a worldwide epidemic affecting over 200 million people and causing more than 3 million deaths annually. That no therapeutic intervention has been found to slow the progression of COPD speaks loudly for the importance of finding new ways to treat the disease. Stem cell therapy is slowly but surely making headlines in mainstream medicine as being a promising source of treatment for COPD and many other diseases.
Stem cells are cells found in bone marrow and other organs. They can develop into any type of tissue that exists in the fully developed body, including any kind of blood cell: red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets.
Because of their unique, regenerative properties, stem cells offer new hope for a variety of diseases, including diabetes mellitis, stroke, osteoporosis, heart disease and, more recently, COPD. Scientists are interested in using stem cells to repair damaged cells and tissues in the body because they are far less likely than to be rejected than foreign cells that originated from another source.
There are two types of stem cells that doctors work with most in both humans and animals: Embryonic stem cells are derived from a blastocyst, a type of cell found in mammalian embryos and adults stem cells which are derived from the umbilical cord, placenta or from blood, bone marrow, skin, and other tissues.
Embryonic stem cells have the capacity to develop into every type of tissue found in an adult. Embryonic stem cells used for research develop from eggs that have been fertilized in vitro (in a laboratory). After they are extracted from the embryo, the cells are grown in cell culture, an artificial medium used for medical research. It is atop this medium where they then divide and multiply.
Adult stem cells have been found in many organs and tissues of the body, but, once removed from the body, they have a difficult time dividing, which makes generating large quantities of them quite challenging. Currently, scientists are trying to find better ways to grow adult stem cells in cell culture and to manipulate them into specific types of cells that have the ability to treat injury and disease.
There is much controversy going on in the world of stem cell therapy and COPD. Why? While autologous stem cell treatment without manipulation is legal in the United States, without manipulation, treatments are not likely to be clinically relevant. For stem cell treatments to be clinically relevant, millions of stem cells need to be implanted into a designated recipient. Because generating millions of stem cells is difficult once they are removed from the body, scientists must manipulate them somehow to produce larger quantities. The FDA says that manipulation turns them into prescription drugs, and that this practice must therefore be tightly regulated. Stem cell advocates don’t agree with the FDA’s stand on this, and are currently fighting to get this changed.
Theoretically speaking, if the regenerative processes in the lungs can keep up with the destructive, inflammatory processes caused by smoking and other airway irritants that ultimately lead to COPD, the lungs would be able to maintain homeostasis, (balance) and lung tissue and function can be preserved.