Novel Method Developed For Localized Drug Delivery to the Lung in Cystic Fibrosis, Other Lung Diseases

Bruno Castro, PhD avatar

by Bruno Castro, PhD |

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In a paper entitled “Targeted delivery of liquid micro volumes into the lung” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Columbia University in New York describe a new method for the targeted delivery of small volume of liquids into the lung.

Standard therapies against lung pathologies such as cystic fibrosis, bronchopneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or lung cancer, require the oral intake or inhalation of high doses of drugs to be efficient. The systemic intake of these large amounts of drugs may result in adverse effects in other organs of the body. Effectiveness of lung disease treatments could be highly improved if a precise and localized delivery of appropriate drug doses to the specific affected region could be attained. This recently developed method has the potential to do exactly that.

Professor Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, who supervised the work, stated in a news release “We envision that our micro-volume liquid instillation approach will enable predictable drug concentrations at the target site, reducing the amount of drug required for effective disease treatment with significantly reduced side effects.”

The immense and complex lung architecture that allows for the exchange of carbon dioxide in blood with oxygen was the main challenge that authors had to overcome. Lung tissue characteristics and air flow suffer a drastic change when going from the bronchi to the alveoli. Authors realized that the distance that a small drop of liquid travels before being absorbed by the lungs can be controlled by varying its volume and the amount of air ventilation.


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Observing the behavior of liquid plugs in glass tubes, authors developed a mathematical model that describes liquid transport in each of the lungs’ particular airways. This model was used to determine the liquid volume and air ventilation regime for the precise delivery of liquid plugs into specific regions of the lungs.

As a result of these findings, it appears that this approach could be used in the treatment of lung pathologies. Indeed, in the future, the researchers hope to demonstrate the applicability of their liquid instillation method in the treatment of lung diseases such as cystic fibrosis.