Tissue-specific drug delivery remains one of modern medicine’s toughest challenges. Recent research has pointed to nanotechnology as one solution, but nanoparticles made of synthetic lipids can be toxic.

To improve nanotech-based drug delivery, researchers today suggest looking no further than the breakfast table—grapefruit-derived nanovectors (GNV), they say, can effectively transport various therapeutic agents, and are associated with fewer adverse effects than their synthetic counterparts.

University of Louisville’s Huang-Ge Zhang, D.V.M., and his colleagues show in Nature Communications that these nanoparticles made of grapefruit-derived lipids can deliver chemotherapeutic agents, short interfering RNA, DNA expression vectors, and proteins to various cell types.

The researchers demonstrated the in vivo targeting specificity of GNVs by co-delivering therapeutics with folic acid. “Our GNVs can be modified to target specific cells—we can use them like missiles to carry a variety of therapeutic agents for the purpose of destroying diseased cells,” Dr. Zhang said. “Furthermore, we can do this at an affordable price.”

While the scientists also analyzed nanoparticles from tomatoes and grapes, they ultimately chose grapefruits because they offer larger quantities of lipids.

The team also demonstrated the therapeutic potential of GDVs in a Phase I clinical investigation involving colon cancer patients. To date, no toxicity has been observed among patients who orally took the anti-inflammatory agent curcumin encapsulated in grapefruit nanoparticles, the researchers report.

The study, “Delivery of therapeutic agents by nanoparticles made of grapefruit-derived lipids,” was published online in Nature Communications May 21.

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