Attaching nanoparticles to blood cells may improve drug delivery

In collaboration with the Press Association

In a discovery that might one day improve delivery of cancer drugs within the body, US researchers have found they can increase the lifetime of nanoparticles circulating in the bloodstream by attaching them to the surface of red blood cells. Nanoparticles - microscopic hollow spheres that can be filled with drugs, or coated with other anti-cancer substances - hold huge potential for treating cancer and other diseases. However, they are often removed from the bloodstream before they have the chance to reach tumours, meaning that their application is currently very limited. The researchers, who have published their findings in Experimental Biology and Medicine, say it may be possible to keep nanoparticles in circulation for up to 120 days, the lifetime of a red blood cell.

In addition, any drugs they contained would be protected from the body's immune system while attached to red blood cells, as the cells are able to evade macrophages, the white blood cells that help to destroy bacteria and other foreign material in the body.

Lead researcher Professor Samir Mitragotri, professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said: "Prolonging particle circulation has significant implications in drug delivery, potentially leading to new treatments for a broad variety of conditions such as cancer, blood clots and heart disease."