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'Nano'-drugs are bad news for diseases

Nanoparticles can get the drugs exactly to the place where they are needed. This means patients need less medicine, and get fewer side effects.

Viruses are small, very small. They are fifty to a hundred times smaller than the width of a hair. But this hasn’t stopped Professor Moein Moghimi of the University of Copenhagen and his team from putting drugs inside nanoparticles that are the same size as viruses.

These nanoparticles can target diseased cells precisely, carrying drugs exactly to the place where they are needed. In this way, doctors will need to give patients a lower dosage, and fewer side effects.

Moghimi’s and colleagues’ discoveries were published in 2010 in ACS Nano, the journal of the American Chemical Society, a periodical specialized in nanotechnologies. In February, a review was been published in Nature Nanotechnology underlining the importance of their work.

Wider implications

Professor Moghimi is Professor of Nanomedicine and the Head of Nanomedicine Group at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. He has held academic positions in China, Iran and England.

Read more details about the discovery on the University of Copenhagen website here.

We asked Professor Moghimi to respond by e-mail to some of the wider implications of his discoveries, and the development of his field.

Can treat cancer

Can we expect nanotechnogy to move medicine from hospitals to homes, and maybe developing countries?
Yes, there are numerous efforts to develop detection kits for diagnostic purposes. Some of them are based on dry tests employing finely engineered nanoparticles, such as gold. Nanoparticulate-based vaccines are in the developing phase. They will give better immune responses, and this could greatly help developing countries.

Besides drug delivery, could nanoparticles be used also for other medical treatments?
Yes, diagnostics is at the forefront. For example, nanocrystals are used for magnetic resonance imaging and detection of metastases. But other nanoparticles may also be used for treatment of cancerous tissues.

New fields

What are the mayor challenges to face to make nano-based pharmacy and medicine widely available?
Treatments are currently hospital-based as they require infusion over a time period. The main challenges are to minimize adverse reactions, to target different cell populations and finally to realize personalized therapies. On top of that, there are many manufacturing, patent issues and regulatory bodies. All challenges that require addressing.

Is nanotechnology changing pharmacy and medicine as a field? What are (or could be) the consequences for students?
Recent advances have created new fields: Nanomedicine is one example and specialized courses are under development or just starting to run in certain countries. At the University of Copenhagen we should start offering a professional Masters course in Nanomedicine since we have a great Nanomed community, with the Nanomedicine Group at Pharma and a counterpart at NanoScience Centre as well as the Centre for Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology. However, Pharmacy still remains an important subject as it deals with medicines discovery and formulation in general.

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