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The Silken Secret: Cutting-Edge Drug Delivery Systems

10 FEB 2014

This week, the AAPS blog looks at innovative new drug delivery systems that are changing the way cancer patients receive pharmaceutical therapies. Researchers are continuously searching for more effective ways to safely target tumors and control the rate at which medication is released into the body. One of the main concerns is preserving healthy tissues while aggressively attacking cancerous cells – and keeping side effects to a minimum.  When we consider uses for precious gems and expensive fabrics, medical science does not immediately leap to mind. But this week’s blog post, The Silken Secret: Cutting-Edge Drug Delivery Systems, reveals that:

For researchers at the universities of Melbourne, Sydney and Tufts however, silk and diamonds have proven invaluable in a new drug delivery system. Nanodiamonds have been around for years, helping bring cancer-fighting therapies directly to tumours without hurting the surrounding tissues. They form clusters that bind to the injected drug, releasing it slowly, and keeping harmful side effects to a minimum. By targeting tumours more efficiently, nanodiamondshave helped reduce patient suffering. And now, researchers have discovered how to make them even better – by covering them with silk.

The post explains that while nanodiamonds have already proven their worth with regard to cancer treatment, silk has recently emerged as a powerful addition to existing drug delivery systems. When the diamonds are coated in silk, they release a glow by which scientists are able to track the progress of the drug and how it interacts with the patients’ cells – a leap forward in the fields of bioimaging and biosensing. Silk also works well when combined with various proteins that boost its strength, allowing for leak-proof drug delivery and substantial control over the rate of release. Researchers are also currently developing silk-derived nanoneedles with applications beyond cancer treatment, such as vaccine delivery.