Chocks away for nano prop delivery research?

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

US scientists at Harvard University’s Rowland Institute have described a way of making large numbers of controllable nano-propellers that, despite being at an early stage of development, may one day be used to deliver drugs.

The propellers, which have a 200 to 300nm wide head and a one micron long tail arranged in a helical, corkscrew-like structure similar to that of a bacterial flagellum, can be induced to swim in a precise manner using a magnetic field.

The researchers used the propellers to push silica nanobeads 5 microns in diameter along precise, reproducible paths using a method that they believe could be used to steer similarly sized delivery particles in the bloodstream.

Peer Fischer, who co-authored the research with Ambarish Ghosh, told in-PharmaTechnologist that unlike “passive​” nanoparticles that move by diffusion in the body the team’s technology can be actively “propelled and thereby steered​.”

Dr Fischer explained that: “Our propellers are the smallest to date and the fabrication method we use is much simpler and permits propellers to be made on a very large scale and in large numbers​.”

The team developed a technique that can produce about a billion propellers per square centimetre of a silicon dioxide substrate in around two hours.

We used glass (silicon dioxide) but a number of other materials can be used and so this greatly enhances the utility of these propellers and permits the examination of chemical nature, and compatibility of these systems​.”

Biocompatability studies required

He added that combining the active technology with “chemical attachment or use of a porous medium for the delivery of chemicals could be addressed, but clearly these applications require more basic research​.”

Silicon dioxide as a nanoparticle is for instance used in food additives, but as far as I know the FDA has not issued any directives regarding the use of nanoparticles. Use of nano/micro-particles will require biocompatibility studies​.”

Despite these remaining hurdles Fischer said that the group “have received expressions of interest from industry… and are open to collaborations and proposals.”

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