Thanks to UC Riverside research, cancer and diabetes patients may now control their illnesses with tablets rather than needles and injections. Some of these drugs dissolve in water, making them hard to transport through the intestines, which digest food and drink. As a result, some drugs cannot be administered orally. However, researchers at UCR have created a chemical “tag” that can be added to these drugs, allowing them to reach the circulation via the intestines. The tag is made consisting of a little peptide that looks like a protein fragment. Min Xue, a chemical professor at UCR, spearheaded the finding.
“Because they are very tiny molecules,” she explained, “you may chemically attach them to medications or other molecules of interest and utilise them to deliver those treatments orally.”
When the researchers discovered these peptides entering cells, Xue’s group was working on something completely unrelated.
“We had no idea this peptide was making its way into cells. It caught us off guard, “Xue stated. “We had long hoped to find this type of chemical marker, and it happened by chance.”
According to Xue, this discovery astonished the researchers since they previously believed that in order for this type of delivery tag to be accepted into negatively charged cells, it required to contain positive charges. Their findings with the neutral peptide tag EPP6 refute that premise.
The Xue group worked with Kai Chen’s group at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine to deliver the peptide to mice to examine its ability to travel through the body. Using a PET scan, a procedure equivalent to a whole-body X-ray that is accessible at USC, the researchers showed how the peptide eventually found its way into the animals’ organs through the blood.
After demonstrating that the tag effectively traversed the circulatory systems via oral distribution, the team plans to demonstrate that the tag can perform the same thing when connected to a range of drugs. Preliminary findings that are “extremely persuasive” offer us hope for the future, Xue noted. Many drugs, such as insulin, must be administered through injection.
The scientists are hopeful that their forthcoming testing will reverse this scenario and allow them to add this tag to a wide spectrum of drugs and chemicals, modifying how those molecules travel through the body.
“This discovery might help those who are already suffering from sickness,” Xue added.