Researchers have developed nanoparticles capable of carrying DNA molecules through the previously impenetrable mucus barrier of the lungs.
The technology was developed jointly by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
According to the scientists, the technology may have significant implication for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , cystic fibrosis, and other conditions affecting the lungs.
The technology can be used to deliver gene therapy directly into pulmonary tissue through inhalation.
The researchers said that the nanoparticles are biodegradable and don't present issues associated with DNA ferrying viruses. Previously created nanoparticles suffered from a poor ability to pass through mucus due to their charge and also bunched in groups.
The nanoparticles are made of biodegradable polymers. The lab tests were able to pass through mucus taken from real patients.
In the test, the researchers loaded DNA strings coding for light producing proteins into the nanoparticles and had animals inhale them into their lungs. The research team then looked at the animal lungs. The technology demonstrated effectiveness and the light producing proteins created a glow that lasted for up to four months after a single administration.
"To our knowledge, this is the first biodegradable gene delivery system that efficiently penetrates the human airway mucus barrier of lung tissue," says study author Jung Soo Suk, Ph.D., a biomedical engineer and faculty member at the Center for Nanomedicine at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins.
The study was appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.