New Calcitonin drug delivery research holds promise for osteoporosis sufferers

Calcitonin, a hormone that lowers calcium levels in the blood and prevents bone loss, has only been available in an injectable and nasally-administered format to date.

New research by Conway investigator, Dr David Brayden promises to ultimately deliver an oral method of treating osteoporosis patients with this hormone, which would have many advantages over current treatment regimes.

All drugs taken orally face the same problem; they must get from the gut into the bloodstream and avoid being broken down by enzymes before they can carry out their job . This is no mean task for many drugs, but it is especially problematic for peptides, some of the main products of the pharmaceutical industry. Dr David Brayden, who is based in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin has suggested a method for delivering calcitonin into the bloodstream by the oral route. The research involves attaching calcitonin to a novel sticky polymer and incorporating components that will both prevent the breakdown of calcitonin and help it move across the gut wall.

Science Foundation Ireland recently awarded Dr Brayden substantial funding under their investigator programme grant scheme to develop his research. Dr. Brayden was formerly a senior research scientist with Elan Corporation before moving to University College Dublin in 2001.

He will collaborate with Professor David Haddleton, University of Warwick, on the project. Professor Haddleton is a conjugate polymer chemist who received the 2004 Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year as a result of the setting up of his company, Warwick Effect Polymers.

Their combined expertise will enable them to create an oral formulation of calcitonin that may eventually lead to production of a tablet, assuming that the drug can still work in its new format. Dr Brayden will develop cell culture, tissue and in vivo models to assess the effectiveness of this new drug delivery system. Commenting on the programme, Dr Brayden said ‘attaching drugs to new polymers may pave the way for new oral treatments of osteoporosis and of several other diseases where injections are the usual choice’.

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