UT Researchers Use Proteins to Deliver At-Home Drugs Safely

While most people cringe at the thought of giving themselves a shot, the ability to self-administer drugs has become a top priority in the science world—which means, of course, that UT researchers are right there on the leading edge.

A team of Cockrell School of Engineering professors has developed a new form of highly concentrated protein clusters that easily pass through a needle—thereby eliminating the need for intravenous injections and trips to the hospital.

Chemical engineering professors Keith P. Johnston and Thomas Truskett, together with assistant professor Jennifer Maynard formed the clusters in water by adjusting pH levels and adding to sugar to bind the proteins together. The three have been collaborating on this project since 2004.

According to the team’s research, once the nano-sized proteins are injected, they separate, traveling through the bloodstream to target affected cells and tumors caused by diseases like cancer and arthritis.

“This general physical concept for forming highly concentrated, yet stable, protein dispersions is a major new direction in protein science,” Johnston said in an announcement of the breakthrough.

In keeping with the goal of developing safe, easy, and effective self-injections, the professors’ proteins are resistant to breakdowns and don’t form harmful aggregates—two problems that have made at-home administrations so dangerous in the past.

This unprecedented new approach, which has been successful when tested on mice, is already drawing the attention of multiple major drug companies. Currently, the researchers also have three patents pending with UT’s Office of Technology Commercialization.

This study will be featured in an upcoming edition of ACS Nano Journal, but can currently be found online here.

Jennifer Maynard, Keith P. Johnston, and Thomas Truskett. Photo courtesy Cockrell School of Engineering.


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