A new system for delivering a drug to organ transplant patients, which could avoid the risk of harmful side effects, is being developed by scientists at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.
The drug, cyclosporine (CsA), is widely used in transplant operations and helps prevent the patient's body rejecting the organ but it can cause adverse drug reactions, of which the most serious problems are kidney and liver damage, in the doses which are currently administered in the long term.
The gap between a safe, effective dose of the treatment and a toxic dose is extremely narrow but the Strathclyde scientists have found a way of capturing CsA in very small amounts. The new system, developed in laboratory tests, enables nanoparticles of the drug to be delivered orally so that the strength of the dose can be maintained, but at a level and in a form which spares kidneys from damage.
Professor Ravi Kumar, of the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, led the research. He said: "CsA is very useful in transplants and treating conditions such as arthritis, lupus and some forms of diabetes, but we need to address the risks it can present to the kidney and liver, apart from various other toxicities such as convulsions and high blood pressure.
"The damage it can cause can be dealt with if it's caught at an early stage but can be irreversible if it continues unchecked. Furthermore, existing formulations of cyclosporine contain castor oil-based vehicle which is used owing to the drug's poor solubility in water but which can be toxic.