APR 24, 2018 9:58 PM PDT

Improving Drug Discovery using Gold Nano-particles

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

Investigators at University of Lincoln in the UK have developed a new technique using nanotechnology which may deliver drugs with high efficacy. This new technique has allowed scientists to ‘decorate’ gold nanoparticles using a protein of choice. This allows drugs to be tailored to target an area of the body for effective treatment, like a tumor growing on the pancreas.

Gold nanoparticles are tiny spheres made of gold atoms with a diameter of only a few billionths of a meter. They can be covered with a biological protein in combination with other drugs to enable the treatment to travel through the body and reach the affected area. These gold nanoparticles will 'adsorb' (hold on its surface) drugs which may otherwise be insoluble or quickly degradable in the blood, and due to their micro level size they can overcome multiple biological barriers like as skin, the small intestine and membranes which may inhibit the drug from reaching its target.

This unique technology is currently in use for real-world applications, but not common in drug development. For example, in pregnancy tests, gold nanoparticles coated with the antibody against the pregnancy hormone present in the urine will display the 'positive' strip if it reacts with the nanoparticles.

Until recently, ‘decorating’ nanoparticles with biological proteins used to be combined together with other particles which are not capable of controlling where they bind resulting in less drug effectiveness. But with this new method, pharmacologists are able to coat gold nanoparticles with proteins in a layer by layer and specific order organization. This maintains the protein to maximize drug efficacy, giving hope for a future in nanomedicine.

"Gold nanoparticles are a vital tool in new drug development and drug delivery systems. We have unlocked the key to binding proteins and molecules so that those drugs will be more effective,” explains Dr. Enrico Ferrari, a nanobiotechnologist from the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Science, "This method might help to design nanomedicines that do not need extensive chemical modification of a protein drug or a nano-carrier and therefore can be developed more easily and faster." Furthermore, investigators retrieved pieces of proteins isolated from bacteria and flatworms, and then fused those proteins together. It was found that the fusion was effective at binding to the gold nanoparticle surface and able to form stable bonds to any other protein.

Sources: Drug Discovery & Development

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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