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Scientists Develop ‘Magic Bullet’ for Acute Lung Injury

Discovery could ‘revolutionize’ management of ICU patients (May 15)

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland have devised a “magic bullet” nanomedicine for the treatment of acute lung injury (ALI) — a condition that affects 20% of intensive-care patients.

Patients with ALI can become critically ill and can develop problems with breathing when their lungs become inflamed and fill with fluid. These individuals often require ventilators to aid their breathing in intensive care units (ICUs). Currently, no drugs can effectively treat the condition.

According to a recent announcement, the researchers have developed a new approach that may revolutionize the clinical management of patients in ICUs.

Their new discovery is a nanoparticle measuring approximately one billionth of a meter. The patient can inhale the drug, taking it directly into the lungs and to the site of inflammation. Current treatments are unable to target directly the inflammation and can result in unpleasant side effects.

Research leader Professor Chris Scott said: “Nanoparticles are perhaps one of the most exciting new approaches to drug development. Most research in the area focuses on how the delivery of drugs to the disease site can be improved in these minute carriers. Our own research in this area focuses on how nanoparticles interact with cells and how this can be exploited to produce therapeutic effects both in respiratory disease and in cancer.”

The new nanoparticle has a surface that allows it to recognize and bind to immune cells (macrophages) in the lungs. These cells play a key role in the uncontrolled inflammation that occurs in ALI. The binding of the nanoparticle to the cell surface induces a rapid reduction in inflammation and has the potential to prevent the damaging effects that would otherwise occur in the lungs of ALI patients, the researchers say.

The new nanomedicine is being developed towards clinical evaluation within the next 3 years.

Source: Queen’s University Belfast; May 15, 2013.

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