According to a new scientific paper, published in the September 22nd issue of the respected scientific journal ACS Nano, experts at the University of Liverpool finally managed to discover what happened to nanoparticles after they were introduced in human cells. The study, which was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), holds great promise towards advancing the field of nanomedicine, the experts say.
The team discovered that an enzyme called cathepsin L degraded the important proteins that made up the outer layers of nanoparticles. Finding a way around this obstacle could mean safer, more efficient, topical drugs in the future, which could act a whole lot faster than the ones currently in use.
“We've known for some time that nanoparticles are taken into cells and there have been experiments done to establish their final destinations, but we didn't know until now what state they are in by the time they get there,” Dr. Raphaal Levy explains.
“One of the promising applications of nanoparticles in medicine is to use them as a method to deliver therapeutic protein molecules inside cells. For these biological therapies to be effective the proteins have to be maintained with high integrity and unfortunately we have seen this compromised by the degrading action of cathepsin L,” Dr. Violaine See, who is also a UL BBSRC David Phillips fellow, adds. She has also been a joint corresponding author of the new journal entry.
According to the team, any new, intracellular nanodevice will have to employ defense mechanisms against the enzyme from now on. The experts propose two ways in which this can be accomplished – either by going around the area causing the problems, or by attaching enzyme inhibitors to the surface of the nanoparticles themselves. The latter option seems like a better way to do things, because the nanoparticles could maintain their specificity, and implicitly their efficiency, in this manner.
“Nanotechnology is an interesting area that has the potential to push all sorts of technological boundaries. There is promise of some useful applications in biology and we've already seen some excellent results with the development of nanomagnetic technology to guide therapeutic proteins and DNA to specific sites to treat tumors, for example. Fundamental bioscience research such as this, helps drive forward nanomedicine to ensure it has a real impact on health and wellbeing in the future,” the BBSRC Chief Executive, Professor Douglas Kell, concludes.