COPD, Other Lung Diseases Could Benefit From Malaysia University, Harvard Partnership

Margarida Azevedo, MSc avatar

by Margarida Azevedo, MSc |

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COPD research partnership

A new research collaboration between Harvard University and Malaysia University’s Malaysia Institute for Innovative Nanotechnology (NanoMITe) will focus on developing and improving smart nanoparticles to deliver therapeutic agents to the lungs of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and other lung diseases.

The five-year partnership will apply Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health expertise on nanomedicine particles able to deliver appropriate levels of diagnostic and therapeutic agents to even the most inaccessible alveoli in the lungs, while NanoMITe will improve the efficacy and safety of the nanoparticles, evaluating their behavior in the body, how they interact with target and non-target cells, and how and where the delivered drug accumulates.

COPD is a broad term used to describe chronic lung diseases that lead to impairment of lung airflow. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COPD will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030. Treatment of COPD usually involved corticosteroids; lung cancer treatments generally include chemotherapy.

The administration of medicine through an inhaled route for lung diseases has grown exponentially because drugs delivered directly to the respiratory system reach the target area faster, resulting in a more rapid medicinal effect. However, common particles used today in inhaled medicines are large, and drugs tend to get stuck in the upper respiratory system, not reaching the more inaccessible parts of the lungs.

Nanotechnology — and specifically nanomedicine — is revolutionizing healthcare by improving different drug delivery and diagnostic strategies at a molecular level through the manipulation of matter.

“Experiments have demonstrated that a drug dose administered directly to the respiratory tract achieves much higher local drug concentrations at the target site,” Harvard’s research leader in the project, Dr. Joseph Brain, the Cecil K. and Philip Drinker Professor of Environmental Physiology, said in a press release,

NanoMITe is involved in other nanotech research such as renewable energy, “smart farming,” and other environmental projects.

Prof. Zakri Abdul Hamid, science adviser to the prime minister of Malaysia, said of the recent collaboration, “Nanotechnology is making a significant impact on healthcare by delivering improvements in disease diagnosis and monitoring, as well as enabling new approaches to regenerative medicine and drug delivery. Malaysia, through NanoMITe, is proud and excited to join the Harvard team and contribute to the creation of these life-giving innovations.”