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Home > Press > A Nanoscale Development With Macro Potential

Assistant professor Andrew MacKay.  
Photo/Kukla Vera
Assistant professor Andrew MacKay. Photo/Kukla Vera

Abstract:
The future of cancer treatment might be microscopic in size, at least according to USC School of Pharmacy assistant professor Andrew MacKay's groundbreaking research.

A Nanoscale Development With Macro Potential

Los Angeles, CA | Posted on December 9th, 2009

MacKay developed new strategies that, when executed on a nanoscale, have successfully led to tumor regression. The strategies involve the self-assembly of genetically engineered materials into nanoscale, drug-loaded packages.

MacKay and his team developed an artificial recombinant, chimeric polypeptide (CP) that spontaneously self-assembles into near-monodisperse, 40-nm-sized nanoparticles. His group demonstrated that this approach is a general and simple strategy to form drug-loaded nanomedicines from safe, biodegradable polypeptides.

These nanomedicines were used to deliver chemotherapeutics to mouse tumors and proved to be more effective than free drugs (an active drug that is not bound to a carrier protein). Not only did drug tolerance increase fourfold, but the use of these innovative chemotherapeutics led to nearly complete tumor regression after only a single dose. While the tumor used in the laboratory was associated with colon cancer in mice, this approach also could be used to treat a variety of cancers.

MacKay believes that packaging drugs into nanoscale delivery vehicles could be particularly useful for cancer therapy. Until now, mechanisms to assemble nanomedicines have relied on complex strategies using non-biocompatible materials.

To overcome this deficiency, MacKay and co-workers designed their drug carriers from a polypeptide sequence found in an elastic protein in human tissues. MacKay identified this approach as one of the necessary criteria to develop effective cancer drug treatments. The genetically engineered chimeric polypeptide molecules allow for this assembly and are novel for their generality, simplicity and biodegradability.

Although MacKay's developments are on a small scale, their impact has huge potential. His work with chimeric polypeptide and nanomedicines was featured in Nature Materials in November.

####

About University of Southern California
Located in Los Angeles, a global center for arts, technology and international trade, the University of Southern California is one of the world’s leading private research universities. USC enrolls more international students than any other U.S. university and offers extensive opportunities for internships and study abroad. With a strong tradition of integrating liberal and professional education, USC fosters a vibrant culture of public service and encourages students to cross academic as well as geographic boundaries in their pursuit of knowledge.

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