New ‘Recipe’ To Produce Easily Nanoparticles

In a rare move, a Houston Methodist researcher is sharing his recipe for a new, more affordable way to make nanoparticles. This will empower any laboratory in the world to easily create similar nanoparticles and could lead to a whole new way of delivering biotherapeutic drugs and do it more quickly.

We’re the only lab in the world doing this,” said Ennio Tasciotti, Ph.D., director of the Center for Biomimetic Medicine at the Houston Methodist Research Institute and corresponding author on a paper published in Advanced Materials. “There are several questions about how our system works, and I can’t answer all of them. By giving away the so-called ‘recipe’ to make biomimetic nanoparticles, a lot of other labs will be able to enter this field and may provide additional solutions and applications that are beyond the reach of only one laboratory. You could say it’s the democratization of nanotechnology.

In the article, Tasciotti and his colleagues show how to standardize nanoparticle production to guarantee stability and reproducibility, while increasing yield. Eliminating the need for multi-million-dollar facilities, Tasciotti and his team demonstrate this using a readily available and relatively affordable piece of benchtop equipment to manufacture nanoparticles in a controlled, adjustable and low-cost manner.

Nanoparticles are generally made through cryptic protocols, and it’s very often impossible to consistently or affordably reproduce them,” Tasciotti added. “You usually need special, custom-made equipment or procedures that are available to only a few laboratories. We provide step-by-step instructions so that now everybody can do it.”


Trojan Horse Nanoparticles Attack Inflammation

Nanosized Trojan horses created from a patient’s own immune cells have successfully treated inflammation by overcoming the body’s complex defense mechanisms, perhaps leading to broader applications for treating diseases characterized by inflammation, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. An international team, led by researchers at Houston Methodist Research Institute, described the creation of nanoparticles called leukosomes and evaluated their ability to treat localized inflammation in the May 23 issue of Nature Materials (early online). Recent approaches to treating inflammatory diseases have been unsuccessful because an already overactive immune system treats simple nanoparticles as foreign invaders and clears them from the body, preventing them from reaching their target.
tissue inflammation2A better approach for building effective drug delivery platforms is to find inspiration for their design in the composition of the immune cells of our body,” said Ennio Tasciotti, Ph.D., director of the Center for Biomimetic Medicine at Houston Methodist Research Institute and the paper’s senior author.
Immune cells such as leukocytes freely circulate in blood vessels, recognize inflammation, and accumulate in inflamed tissues. They do so by using special receptors and ligands on their surface. We purified leukocytes from a patient, then integrated their special ligands and receptors into the leukosome surface. Using the body’s own materials, we built a drug delivery system camouflaged as our own body’s defense system—thus the Trojan horse.


New Cancer Treatment Could Eliminate Lung Metastases

A team of investigators from Houston Methodist Research Institute may have transformed the treatment of metastatic triple negative breast cancer by creating the first drug to successfully eliminate lung metastases in mice.
The majority of cancer deaths are due to metastases to the lung and liver, yet there is no cure. Existing cancer drugs provide limited benefit due to their inability to overcome biological barriers in the body and reach the cancer cells in sufficient concentrations. Houston Methodist nanotechnology and cancer researchers have solved this problem by developing a drug that generates nanoparticles inside the lung metastases in mice.
In this study, 50 percent of the mice treated with the drug had no trace of metastatic disease after eight months. That’s equivalent to about 24 years of long-term survival following metastatic disease for humans.

Due to the body’s own defense mechanisms, most cancer drugs are absorbed into healthy tissue causing negative side effects, and only a fraction of the administered drug actually reaches the tumor, making it less effective, said Mauro Ferrari, Ph.D, president and CEO of the Houston Methodist Research Institute. This new treatment strategy enables sequential passage of the biological barriers to transport the killing agent into the heart of the cancer. The active drug is only released inside the nucleus of the metastatic disease cell, avoiding the multidrug resistance mechanism of the cancer cells. This strategy effectively kills the tumor and provides significant therapeutic benefit in all mice, including long-term survival in half of the animals.

cancer treatment by injection

This may sound like science fiction, like we’ve penetrated and destroyed the Death Star, but what we discovered is transformational. We invented a method that actually makes the nanoparticles inside the cancer and releases the drug particles at the site of the cellular nucleus. With this injectable nanoparticle generator, we were able to do what standard chemotherapy drugs, vaccines, radiation, and other nanoparticles have all failed to do,” said Ferrari.

The research has been published in Nature Biotechnology .


How To Fight Against The Number One Killer Of Babies

Using nanoparticles to engineer a special drug, a team of researchers has demonstrated in mice a new way to both reduce preterm birth and avoid the risks of medication in pregnancy to unborn babies.

Jerrie S. Refuerzo, M.D., of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston (UTHealth) was frustrated with the limitations of existing tocolytic (anti-contraction or labor-repressant) medications such as indomethacin in treating women experiencing preterm labor. These drugs can cross the placental barrier and cause a heart defect or other problems in the fetus. Dr. Refuerzo and Monica Longo, M.D., Ph.D. (UT Health), in collaboration with colleagues from Houston Methodist Research Institute, Biana Godin, PharmD, Ph.D., bioengineered an innovative microscopic nanoparticle of indomethacin aimed at reaching the pregnant uterus but not crossing the placenta to the fetus. This targeted liposomal indomethacin, called LIPINDORA, was coated with an oxytocin receptor antagonist to make it bind to uterine tissue. LIPINDORA was given to near-term pregnant mice and the researchers found that the treated mice were significantly less likely than controls to have preterm uterine contractions or to deliver prematurely.


These findings are exciting because we don’t currently have any medication that can reliably stop contractions or prevent preterm birth without also crossing the mom’s placenta and causing risks to babies,” explained Edward R. B. McCabe, M.D., Ph.D,, senior vice president and chief medical officer of the March of Dimes.

Preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) is the number one killer of babies in the United States.