Niren Murthy, an assistant professor in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, describes his team's polyketal microparticles as a vehicle to get the drugs inside the body to the diseased area as quickly as possible.
The researcher says that the major advantage to using these polyketals to deliver drugs is that they degrade into biocompatible compounds that do not accumulate in a patient's tissue or cause additional inflammation.
He further says that the new polymer has the advantage of stability in both acids and bases, and that it degrades only in the presence of reactive oxygen species that are present in and around inflamed tissue.
Murthy and his colleagues are collaborating with Didier Merlin, a professor in the Division of Digestive Diseases at Emory University, to investigate loading these polyketals with therapeutics to treat inflammatory bowel disease, an illness that causes the large and small intestines to swell.
"We think these microparticles are going to be fantastic for oral drug delivery because they can survive the stomach conditions before they release their contents in the intestines," he said.
The researchers are also examining the use of polyketals to treat acute liver failure, a condition when the liver stops functioning because macrophages in the liver create reactive oxygen species.
"Patients with acute liver failure need drugs as soon as possible or else they'll die. We've tailored the polyketal's hydrolysis rates to deliver the drug in one or two days," Murthy said.
The researchers also have a method to deliver proteins to a diseased organ to treat other illnesses.
"Delivering proteins inside microparticles has been limited because getting the protein into the microparticles required organic solvents that frequently destroyed the proteins. To overcome this problem, we developed a method of simply immobilizing the protein on the surface of the microparticles," said Murthy.
While making a presentation at the 236th American Chemical Society National Meeting in Philadelphia recently, the researchers said that they would continue developing new polyketals in the next few years, and conducting efficacy tests in cell cultures and animal studies.
"In the past few years, we have developed methods to tailor the polyketal's properties, which have already allowed us to target many different medical conditions, but our end goal is to test these treatments in humans," said Murthy.