Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Tiny glass beads can deliver drugs

Published in the May 10, 2010 Raleigh News & Observer & Charlotte Observer


DURHAM — Anyone who has made rock candy in a kitchen chemistry experiment is familiar with the transformative process of evaporation. Now a Duke engineer is using a similar approach to make something more sophisticated: protein-based, intravenously delivered pharmaceutical drugs in tiny glass bead form.

By putting proteins dissolved in water into a larger solution of the organic solvent octanol, David Needham, an engineer and chemist at the Duke University Pratt School of Engineering, discovered he could remove the water, leaving behind a spherical, protein glass bead. The process is called glassification.

“With this method, we can control the size of the protein particles, as well as the rate of dispersion, for more efficient

COURTESY OF DUKE UNIVERSITY - A process developed at Duke University creates these tiny glass beads of protein-based intravenous drugs.

drug delivery,” Needham said. “We’ve also determined that glassification helps proteins hold on to their work abilities better than other protein preservation methods.”

Michael Bishop, director of medicinal chemistry for GlaxoSmithKline Research & Development, said the pharmaceutical company is in preliminary discussions with Needham to see if glassification can make drug delivery and production more efficient and less expensive.

Protein-based drugs include insulin or the cancer drug Herceptin. Currently, the ingredients must be freeze-dried into a powder. The protein powder must be hydrated to work as an injectable drug, but it often clogs the delivery syringes. Using glass beads is more efficient because they create a thinner substance that won’t block syringes, Needham said.

John Carpenter, a professor of pharmaceutical biotechnology at the University of Colorado Denver, said the cost of shifting to Needham’s technology may be prohibitive, at least until the process proves viable in large-scale testing.

“It sounds good on paper, but for traditional vaccines, drugs and therapeutic proteins, I don’t see [Needham’s] discovery replacing the current system,” Carpenter said. Still, he said, the development holds promise.

“I’m excited that his engineering can be applied to other approaches that have failed because they haven’t been able to control particle size, like those that blast drugs through the skin,” Carpenter said.

To read the story online: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/05/10/475248/tiny-glass-beads-can-deliver-drugs.html or http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/05/10/1426027/tiny-glass-beads-can-deliver-drugs.html


May 10, 2010 - Posted by | Healthcare, Science | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I continue to follow your articles because of the content and relevance to daily life. Thank you in advance, as I am sure I will be reading your next piece of work soon.

    Comment by Doug Palmer | May 11, 2010 | Reply

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