NASA researchers are developing tiny, liquid-filled, biodegradable microcapsules containing specific combinations of drugs to treat and diagnose tumor patients. In the beginning, however, there was a catch: the research could only be done while floating in space.
“The technique that we have for making these microcapsules could not be done on the ground, because the different densities of the liquids would layer,” says Dennis Morrison, PhD, retired NASA principal investigator of the Microencapsulation Electrostatic Processing System-II (MEPS-II) study. “But in space, since there is not sedimentation due to gravity, everything goes spherical.”
It is surface tension in outer space that shapes liquids into spheres, with each molecule on a liquid’s surface being pulled with equal tension by its neighbors. This allows combinations of fluids to interface rather than sit atop one another like they would on the ground. But now the researchers have figured out a way to produce microcapsules on Earth, a development that will make it dramatically easier to seek out investors who are interested in helping to take the drug technology to market via clinical trials in humans.
“Space was our teacher,” says Morrison, “our classroom to figure out how we could make these on Earth.”
Morrison currently serves as president and director for microencapsulation research and development at NuVue Therapeutics, which has obtained an exclusive license to the NASA technology. NuVue is now seeking FDA approval of MEPS microcapsules containing pharmaceuticals and marker imaging agents that would allow clinicians to diagnose patients by viewing the microcapsules during ultrasound.
“These technologies were only able to come to fruition because of the availability of the microgravity environment aboard the space station,” Morrison comments. “Without it, this innovative breakthrough involving the microencapsulation technology process would have never been created.”
Source: TG Daily