Novel Automated Process May Speed Up Development of New Medicines

Researchers from the Chalmers University of Technology and AstraZeneca have developed a new method of detecting and testing lipid nanoparticles.

Researchers from the Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden) and AstraZeneca have developed a new method of detecting and testing lipid nanoparticles, which is hoped to be able to accelerate the development of messenger RNA (mRNA) medicines.

According to a June 9, 2021 press release, the novel automated process has been designed to allow for the simultaneous monitoring and testing of large numbers of different lipid nanoparticles. Using fluorescent markers, the researchers have been monitoring and analyzing the movement of lipid nanoparticles through cells. Additionally, the new method has allowed the researchers to see if the mRNA, which is packed into the lipid nanoparticle, is able to produce the encoded protein once delivered.

“Instead of just seeing which lipid nanoparticles work best, we can now also understand what makes them work optimally, and use that knowledge to develop and test new improved nanoparticle formulations,” said Michael Munson, postdoctoral fellow at AstraZeneca R&D, who is affiliated to the research centre FoRmulaEx and is the first author of the study that was recently published in the journal Nature Communications Biology, in the press release.

“To reduce the risk of side effects, such as the immune system being triggered by the lipid particles, we want to use the lowest possible dose. This is particularly true for diseases which require long-term treatment,” added Elin Esbjörner, associate professor of Chemical Biology at Chalmers University of Technology and co-author of the study, in the press release. “In those cases, it is vital that the moment of endosomal escape is optimally timed, to allow the mRNA to get out into the cytoplasm with maximum effect.”

Furthermore, the researchers can assess how efficiently the lipid particles are delivered and how well they work in different types of cells using the method. Therefore, through the information gained from the method, it could be possible for drugs to be developed that are tailored to target specific tissues.

“The lipid nanoparticles work differently in different cell types. A formulation that works well for delivery to liver cells, for example, could be significantly different in lung cells,” stated Esbjörner, in the press release. “Our new method could help us understand why such differences exist, and to harness this knowledge to design new lipid nanoparticles tailored for different targets in the body.”

Source: Chalmers University of Technology