A drug delivery system designed by researchers at Yale University shows promise for the treatment of lupus and other chronic autoimmune diseases.
The team used biodegradable nanoparticles to deliver low doses of drugs in an early-stage study. The use of these drug-laden nanoparticles, called nanogels, increased the median survival time of mice with lupus by 3 months. The median survival time was increased by 2 months in mice that already had severe kidney damage as a result of lupus.
“Three months of a mouse’s life is roughly equivalent to more than 8 years of a human life, so this is dramatic,” said Tarek Fahmy, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Yale University. “The potential for human benefit is clear and promising.”
Compared with conventional therapies for lupus, the nanogels improve the drug delivery to the cells and enhance drug retention in the body, allowing for the use of significantly lower drug doses. In addition, drug delivery via nanogels works without depleting white blood cells, which reduces the patient’s risk for infection.
Nanogels are made of organic materials and can circulate for longer periods of time in the body than conventional drugs because of their size and their ability to pass biological barriers. They can also be programmed to target specific cells, such as T-cells and antigen-presenting cells, thereby deactivating them and suppressing their response, which would minimize the symptoms of lupus.
The nanogels are made of materials approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and could therefore shorten the process involved in preparing them for human use. Yale News; March 1, 2013