Dual-purpose liposome offers intelligent diagnosis, drug delivery

August 6, 2010 by Neil Thomas, University of Delaware

Key objectives of modern health care are early and accurate diagnosis of a disease and quick remediation with minimal side effects.

So imagine a tiny bubble, or liposome, that can be inserted into the human body and delivered to a specific target to provide both precise diagnosis of a and intelligent to combat that tumor.

The dual-purpose liposome is at the heart of joint research being conducted by teams from the University of Delaware and North Dakota State University in a collaborative project funded by a three-year, $586,715 grant from the National Science Foundation to be shared equally between the two universities.

“This proposal addresses all of the important elements of health care, with concurrent imaging and targeted and controlled drug release,” said Kausik Sarkar, associate professor in the University of Delaware Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Sarkar is conducting the research in cooperation with Sanku Mallik, professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at North Dakota State.

Sarkar said the goal of the project is to develop lipid bilayer encapsulated liposomes, a field in which Mallik is a noted expert.

“The liposomes are excellent agents for medical purposes because of their close structural resemblance with animal cells, and can be loaded with drugs and genes to be delivered to target tissues,” Sarkar said.

They can also be designed to be diagnostic for better use in , which is Sarkar's field of expertise. Ultrasound uses a pulsing high frequency sound beyond the upper limit of human hearing to peer into the body and provide images, and is an important tool in modern health care.

Mallik will devise liposomes that are echogenic, containing gases that would reflect ultrasound and show up in ultrasound images.

He also will make the encapsulation of the liposomes with specially designed molecules that would attach to target enzymes expressed in plaques or cancerous tumors, Sarkar said.

That would enable accurate ultrasound diagnosis of the disease while, at the same time, reaction with the enzymes would uncork the liposomes and release the contained drug to only the target tissue.

Targeting an enzyme with liposomes and regulating drug delivery by releasing an inhibitor is an improvement over the usual practice of passive slow drug release from encapsulates, Sarkar said, adding that the ability to concurrently image the extent of expression using the same encapsulates signifies an important step forward in the goal of quick diagnosis and intelligent therapy.

This is the second NSF grant Sarkar has received in 2010. The earlier award will fund research to better understand ultrasound echoes of encapsulated microbubbles used for noninvasive blood pressure monitoring.

Sarkar joined the UD faculty in 2001. He received a bachelor's degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, and a master's and doctorate from the Johns Hopkins University.

Mallik received a bachelor's degree from the Indian Institute of Technology and a doctorate from Case Western Reserve University.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.