28. May 2024

Scientists at CEITEC Masaryk University have achieved a major success in drug delivery technology by designing artificial nanoparticles capable of inducing spontaneous fusion of lipid vesicles with cell membranes. The advantage of these optimized nanoparticles is that they do not need any additional triggers for inducing the fusion. The results, published in the journal Nanoscale, open new possibilities in biotechnology and biomedicine, particularly in the development of more efficient systems for targeted drug delivery to cells.

Lipid membranes are vital biological barriers surrounding and protecting all cells. The membrane function is to regulate the transport of substances in and out of the cell, maintaining a stable internal environment essential for cellular functions. To transport large amounts of molecules, cells have evolved small lipid membrane sacs called vesicles to serve as carriers. These vesicles can fuse with the cell membrane with the help of highly specialized proteins resulting in the transport of vesicle content into the cell. 

This fusion is also crucial for drug delivery systems using artificial vesicles. Such vesicles encapsulate therapeutics to protect them from the environment until delivery to diseased cells. By incorporating nanoparticles able to induce vesicle fusion without additional triggers, the vesicles can spontaneously deliver therapeutics into diseased cells.

A new study by Sofía Blasco, Lukáš Sukeník, and Robert Vácha from CEITEC Masaryk University has shown that such fusogenic nanoparticles can exist. “By performing more than 30 000 simulations, where we systematically varied nanoparticle properties, we have demonstrated how nanoparticle size, aspect ratio or membrane adhesion strength, affect each step of the fusion process, as well as the detailed mechanism of nanoparticle-induced fusion, says the team leader author Robert Vácha.

“Our study, which was published in the journal Nanoscale offers valuable information about membrane fusion, including the optimal properties for nanoparticles inducing membrane fusion. These results open the door to diverse applications in biotechnology and biomedicine, such as the design of more efficient drug delivery systems, adds the first author Sofía Blasco.

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