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Polymer Nanoparticles Tested to Respond,Treat Inflammation

Adah Almutairi (Univ. of California - San Diego)

Adah Almutairi (Univ. of California – San Diego)

Pharmaceutical scientists and engineers at University of California in San Diego developed a degradable polymer in nanoscale form that can respond to measurable concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, an indicator of inflammation associated with many disorders. The team led by pharmacy professor Adah Almutairi (pictured left) published its findings online earlier this month in the Journal of the American Chemical Society; paid subscription required.

Inflammation is a condition often found with many types of diseases, including infection, neural degeneration, and cardiovascular diseases. When the chemical balance within a tissue is disturbed, hydrogen peroxide — a type of reactive oxygen species — can accumulate causing oxidative stress and related harmful effects.

A non-toxic method for locating and responding to hydrogen peroxide and other reactive oxygen species in small concentrations could, as a result, detect low levels of inflammation and deliver anti-inflammatory drugs. However, say the authors, current polymer compounds are not sensitive to biologically relevant concentrations of hydrogen peroxide.

The UC San Diego team devised and tested in the lab two biodegradable polymers with somewhat different chemistries, configured as nanoscale capsules that can carry an anti-inflammatory payload. The lab tests showed both materials were stable in simulated conditions, taken up by immune system cells that respond to inflammation, and able to degrade in the presence of hydrogen peroxide. One of the polymers worked faster and released more of its payload, however.

Almutairi, who directs UC San Diego’s Laboratory of Bioresponsive Materials, says “This is the first example of a biocompatible way to respond to oxidative stress and inflammation.” The next stage of the research will be to test this method in a model of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

“Cardiologists have long needed a non-invasive method to determine which patients are vulnerable to a heart attack caused by ruptured plaque in the arteries before the attack,” says Almutairi. “Since the most dangerous of plaques is inflamed, our system could provide a safe way to detect and treat this disease.”

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