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Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Nanoparticles commercially made to order - Inside & Out

New MIT research enables for high-speed customisation of novel nanoparticles for drug delivery and other applications

DCN Corp® - Researchers at MIT and the University of North Carolina created these coated nanoparticles in many shapes and sizes.  Credit - Kevin E. Shopsowitz and Stephen W. Morton

Researchers from MIT and a partnering university (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) have developed a new coating technology, which combines a novel nanoparticle-manufacturing technology.  The technology is proposed to offer scientists a way to quickly mass manufacture tailored nanoparticles, which are specially coated for specific applications, such as medicines and electronics.

Employing this new combination of two existing technologies - scientists can produce small, uniform particles with customised layers of materials, which can carry drugs or other molecules to interact with their environment, or even target specific types of cells.

Being able to create highly reproducible batches of precisely engineered, coated nanoparticles is paramount for the safe manufacture of drugs and obtaining regulatory approval, as stated by Paula Hammound, the David H. Koch Professor in Chemical Engineering at MIT and a member of MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

Hammond goes onto state - "everyone's excited about nano-medicine's future potential, and there are some systems that are making it out to market, but people are also concerned about how reproducible each batch is.  That's especially critical for applications such as cancer therapies,".  "Fortunately, we have combined two technologies that are at the forefront of addressing these issues and that show great promise for the future of nano-manufacturing."

Describing their technology - Hammond and Joseph DeSimone, the Chancellor's Eminent Professor of Chemistry at UNC and the Whillian R. Kenan Jr. - distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at North Caroline State University - published a paper on the online edition of Advanced Materials (July 2013).

A very versatile platform

Previously Hammond's lab had developed a layer-by-layer deposition technique for coating nanoparticle surfaces with alternating layers of drugs, Ribonucleic acid (RNA), proteins or other molecules of interest.  Such coatings can also be designed to protect nanoparticles from being destroyed by the body's immune system before reaching their intended targets.  Hammond goes onto state "It's a very versatile platform for incorporating therapeutics,"

Unfortunately, the layer-by-layer process commonly employed nowadays to fabricate nanoparticles takes too long to be useful for rapid, large-scale manufacture.  For each nano-layer - the particles must be soaked in a solution of the coating material, then spun in a centrifuge to remove excess coating.  Please Note applying each layer takes approximately an hour.

In the new study, the MIT researchers employed a spray-based technique, which allows them to apply each layer in just a few seconds.  Such a technology was previously developed in the Hammond lab and is now being commercialised by Svaya Nanotechnologies.

Hammond combined this initial approach with a nanoparticle-manufacturing technology known as the Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates (PRINT) platform, which was developed in the DeSimone Laboratory at UNC and is now being commercialised by Liquidia Technologies.  Liquidia focuses on employing the PRINT platform to create novel nanotechnology based healthcare products, vaccines and therapeutics.

Essentially the PRINT platform is a continuous roll-to-roll particle-molding technology, which enables the design and mass production of precisely engineered particles of controlled size, shape and chemical composition.  To manufacture particles, such as the ones employed in this study, then a mixture of polymers and drug molecules (or other payload) is applied to a large roll of film, which consists of a nano-sized mold containing features of the desired shape and size.  Thereafter the mixture fills every feature of the mold and solidifies to create billions of nanoparticles.  Particles are removed from the mold using another roll of adhesive film, which can then be sprayed with layers of specialised coatings using Hammond's novel technology and separated into individual particles.

Multiple functions

The new process is promising to yield large quantities of coated nanoparticles while still dramatically reducing production time.  It also enables for custom design of a wide variety of materials - both in the nanoparticle core and in the coating, for applications, such as electronics, drug delivery, vaccines, wound healing or imaging - as stated by Stephen Morton.  Morton is the lead author of the Advanced Materials July 2013 paper and a graduate student in Hammond's lab.

Morton continues to state - "Both the PRINT and layer-by-layer technologies allow for incorporation of many different materials that have unique properties to make systems with multiple built-in functions,"

To demonstrate the potential/usefulness of this technique - the researcher created particles coated with hyaluronic acid, which have been shown to target proteins, called CD44 receptors, which are typically found in high levels on aggressive cancer cells.  For example - it was found that breast cancer cells grown in the lab engulf particles coated with layers of hyaluronic acid much more efficiently than particles without the coatings or with coatings not containing hyaluronic acid.

In their next phase of research - the researchers plan to design particles containing cancer drugs and cancer-fighting coatings to foresee if they can effectively shrink tumors.  Some of such particles - may include combinations, such as two different chemotherapy drugs, or a drug combined with RNA molecules that target cancerous genes.  Such combinations have been shown to work together in a 'synergistic' fashion to selectively dis-arm and kill cancer cells.  Original article available here

As with other MIT news citations - DCN Corp finds the above description highly innovation, and the company is wondering if it can provide a similar layer-by-layer concept? - with a greater degree of simplicity, cost-effectiveness and thin film homogeneity.  Thus, if you or your colleagues are seeking such a R&D collaboration - please ensure to contact the company as soon as practicably possible.