Synthetic protocells can be made to move toward and away from chemical signals, an important step for the development of new drug-delivery systems that could target specific locations in the body. By coating the surface of the protocells with enzymes–proteins that catalyze chemical reactions–a team of researchers at Penn State was able to control the direction of the protocell’s movement in a chemical gradient in a microfluidic device.
A paper describing the research appears in the journal Nature Nanotechnology (“Positive and negative chemotaxis of enzyme-coated liposome motors”).
“The futuristic vision is to have drugs delivered by tiny ‘bots’ that can transport the drug to the specific location where it is needed,” said Ayusman Sen, the Verne M. Willaman Professor of Chemistry at Penn State and the leader of the research team. “Currently, if you take an antibiotic for an infection in your leg, it diffuses throughout your entire body. So, you have to take a higher dose in order to get enough of the antibiotic to your leg where it is needed. If we can control the directional movement of a drug-delivery system, we not only reduce the amount of the drug required but also can increase its speed of delivery.”

Image Credit:  Ambika Somasundar, Penn State

Read more at nanowerk.com

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