Biophysicists discovered how nanoparticles of drugs can penetrate the lungs

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Russian biophysicists have found out how small nanoparticles can pierce the “armor” of lung cells and penetrate the human body, which allows them to be used to treat lung and other organs, RIA Novosti reported . This is stated in an article published in the journal  Langmuir .

“Nanoaerosol particles penetrate our experimental system literally like bullets, and we saw that the highly charged glucose nanoparticles pierce the fat layer covering the cells,” explained Elena Shlyapnikova from the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Pushchino, whose words are given by the press service of the research institute .

Asthma and many other lung diseases are treated today using various inhalers – special devices that turn the drug solution into an aerosol, a set of tiny particles and drops. Such particles can penetrate into the lung tissue, but they have a big drawback – most of them settle in the trachea and bronchi before they reach deep layers of lung tissue.

This problem, as Shlyapnikov and her colleagues write, can be solved in a fairly simple way – it is enough to reduce the drops of the medicine to the size of nanoparticles, and then most of them will reach the “end” of the lungs. Such a simple solution, on the other hand, gave rise to another problem: the scientists did not know if such nanoaerosols could penetrate the pulmonary tissue itself.

The fact is that the cells of the alveoli, the “sacs,” where there is a gas exchange between the blood and air, are covered with a special layer of fat that protects them from external influences. Large particles and droplets of aerosols can penetrate through this layer, however biophysicists had doubts about whether nanoparticles could make such a “breakthrough”.

Scientists from the Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biology of the Russian Academy of Sciences have found out that this is possible by experimenting with an artificial analogue of the “armor” of alveolar cells, which they grew in a special bath that allowed them to monitor the surface tension of this layer of fat. Then they installed above this layer a special “gun” that sprayed a solution of sugar and several other substances into a set of nanoparticles, and watched whether they were able to “shoot” an analog of fatty armor.

As it turned out, sufficiently large nanoparticles, whose sizes exceeded 100 nanometers, very easily penetrated this layer of fat, regardless of the composition of the solution from which they were prepared. Having achieved success, biophysicists reduced the size of nanoparticles and tried to understand what their properties most influenced the probability of “firing” the fat armor of the lungs.

It turned out that these chances were strongly influenced not only by the size of the nanodischarge of the drug, but also whether they were charged and polar. If the molecules from which nanoparticles are made do not have areas with an excessive positive and negative charge, then they can be embedded in the lipid layer, making it more dense, preventing other nanoparticles from penetrating through it.

As scientists hope, further observations of the process of “firing” the fat layer with nanoparticles will help them to uncover all the physical secrets of this process, and understand how they can be used to create nanoaerosols suitable for treating even the most difficult lung diseases.

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