Exploiting body's fat absorption pathways may improve drug efficacy

By packaging drugs to look like lipids, they can be absorbed by the lymphatic system and delivered directly to the bloodstream, increasing their efficacy, researchers say.
By Stephen Feller  |  Aug. 10, 2016 at 3:21 PM
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MELBOURNE, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Many medications are broken down before making it to the bloodstream, preventing their arrival at the site of infection, but researchers think they've found a way to improve drug delivery by bypassing certain bodily processes.

Researchers in Australia have created a method of delivering drugs using the lymphatic system in order to bypass the liver and create a route directly to the bloodstream, increasing the amount of a substance making it to target areas.

As part of first-pass metabolism, the gut and liver break down what is consumed, filtering out material seen as foreign or detrimental, breaking it down to prevent damage. This means most drugs taken orally never make it to where they are needed.

"The advantage of our system is that drugs are shielded from degradation in the liver but are ultimately released when they reach their site of action, ensuring that the drug given to the patient goes where it is supposed to," Chris Porter, a professor at the ARC Center of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science, in a press release.

For the study, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, the researchers created a technology to modify drugs so they mimic dietary lipids, which are absorbed into the lymph system -- unlike other nutrients.

The system was tested using testosterone in animal models, finding the hormone bypassed the gut and liver to be delivered straight into the bloodstream, resulting in levels up to 90 times higher than possible with medications already available.

The researchers think the system may eventually work for other drugs, specifically those meant to stimulate the immune system to fight cancer or suppress it to battle autoimmune diseases such as Crohn's disease.

"No matter how good the drug is, it needs to be absorbed [into the bloodstream] and to avoid this first pass metabolism in order to get to the general circulation where it acts," Porter said.

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