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Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a hereditary disease affecting the respiratory and digestive systems. CF affects the exocrine glands that primarily secrete substances such as mucus that protect us from pathogens. If individuals have CF, their lungs and pancreas produce abnormally thick mucus, which commonly leads to various types of infections and inflammation in body cavities. Presently, there is no cure for CF; those who suffer from this disease have to take preventative measures to control the spread of infection. Many patients who suffer from CF take antibiotics, since their bodies are unable to expel the microbes that are inhaled.

In order to overcome the inflammatory response that a pathogen evokes, Dr. Carolyn Cannon and her team have found that ibuprofen—an analgesic and an anti-inflammatory drug—when taken at high dosages, helps slow down the progression of lung decline in a patient suffering from CF. The downside of ingesting high doses of ibuprofen is that long-term usage results in gastrointestinal (GI) tract bleeding, and patients taking both antibiotics and high doses of ibuprofen for recurring infections can suffer from acute renal failure. So, is there another way to use large doses of ibuprofen without it affecting the GI tract? According to further research conducted by Dr. Cannon, ibuprofen can be harnessed such that only the positive effects of the medication remain. In order to do this, nanoparticles need to be used.

This image indicates clot formation within the alveoli of the lung as cystic fibrosis advances overtime.

Image Source: RF Medical Images

A nanoparticle is a microscopic particle with at least one dimension less than 100 nanometers. Nanoparticle ibuprofen can be delivered directly to the lungs via aerosols. This delivery blocks the migration of a certain white blood cells, called neutrophils, to the lung and functions to provide antimicrobial properties as well as anti-inflammatory response without harmful side effects. Essentially, it would work in conjunction with the antibiotics administered to the patient, making the effort to eliminate pathogens easier. Currently, Dr. Cannon and her team are working with animal models to measure drug concentrations in the lungs and serum levels at different points in time. The idea behind this is to see how nanoparticles improve pneumonia survival rates in animal models. The reasoning behind using rats that have pneumonia is that the lung fluid that accumulates in pneumonia is of similar composition to the CF fluid and also affects the chest cavity due to its overproduction. Thus, these rats can be used to study how the fluid in their lungs changes in response to the nanoparticles. Once the effects of nanoparticles are thoroughly assessed, Dr. Cannon’s research team can move forward to understanding the dynamics of using nanoparticles for CF patients and discuss their technology with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for widespread availability.

Feature Image Source: ibuprofen by mzuckerm

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