Nanoparticles disguised as red blood cells will deliver cancer-fighting drugs

June 21, 2011
Polymeric Nanoparticles

Scanning fluorescence microscopy image shows the integrity of the RBC-membrane-cloaked polymeric nanoparticles after being taken up by a cancer cell. The RBC membrane was visualized with green dye, polymeric core with red dye, and cancer cell with blue dye (credit: PNAS Early Edition)

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a novel method of disguising nanoparticles as red blood cells (RBCs), which will enable the nanoparticles to evade the body’s immune system and deliver cancer-fighting drugs straight to a tumor.

They collected the membrane from a red blood cell and wrapped it like a powerful camouflaging cloak around a biodegradable polymer nanoparticle stuffed with a cocktail of small molecule drugs. The nanoparticles are less than 100 nanometers in size, about the same size as a virus.

“This is the first work that combines the natural cell membrane with a synthetic nanoparticle for drug delivery applications.” said Professor Liangfang Zhang.

Using nanoparticles to deliver drugs reduces the hours it takes to slowly drip chemotherapy drug solutions through an intravenous line, taking just a few minutes for a single injection of nanoparticle drugs, the researchers said.

Ref.: Liangfang Zhang, et al., Erythrocyte membrane-camouflaged polymeric nanoparticles as a biomimetic delivery platform, PNAS, June 20, 2011 [DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1106634108]