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Researchers quicken drug discovery method via zombie-like cells

Date: 10.5.2019 

Researchers are using zombie-like cells that behave normally on the outside, but are filled with magnetic particles inside, to screen potential drugs from natural products.

Kredit: University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.Discovered at The University of Alabama, the method could quicken a laborious task that slows drug discovery, according to findings in a paper published in the journal Nanoscale.

The method uses magnetic nanoparticles coated with a biological cell membrane as a lure to fish out pharmacologically active compounds from plants and other natural organisms such as fungi. It quickly sorts through hundreds, possibly thousands, of compounds found in a natural product in a few days, a process that can take weeks or months using traditional screening methods.

About 70 percent of drugs approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration were first identified in nature, but teasing out possible chemical compounds from the abundance of plants is time consuming.

The new method uses ionic solvents to leech out the innards of a cell and wrapping the cell's shell around iron oxide nanoparticles. They are inserted into a plant extract.

The encapsulation of the magnetic beads of iron oxide with a cell membrane keeps the function of the transmembrane proteins that act as receptors for active compounds, which bind to the coated nanoparticles.





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