Targeted Drug Delivery – UPSC GS3

What is the issue with delivery of drugs presently?
  • One of the problems with medicine today is that good drugs often distribute equally into diseased and healthy cells. When drugs accumulate in healthy cells they often cause toxicity.
  • Scientists have identified specific receptors or markers on cancer cells and other diseased cells which distinguish them from healthy cells.
How does it work?
  • They use these markers to deliver the drug specifically to the diseased cell, thereby avoiding the collateral toxicity to the healthy cells.
  • The technology is based on two simple principles: find a molecule that will home in on the diseased cell and then link that to a very effective drug that will treat the disease.
  • So the drug piggy-backs on the homing molecule and accumulates in the diseased cell and not in the healthy cell.
  • The scientists take advantage of the fact that cancer cells have an enormous appetite for folic acid — which is the Trojan horse that delivers the drug. They need a lot of this vitamin for DNA synthesis.
  • They deliver a fluorescent dye to cancer cells using this method. This turns out to be very important because nearly 40% of all cancers tend to recur after surgery as the surgeon has failed to remove all of the malignant tissue. By helping the surgeon see the residual malignant tissue, a lot of lives can be saved.

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