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‘Magic bullet’ drug touted for treating acute lung injury in intensive care

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Future treatment of acute lung injury (ALI) could involve a ‘magic bullet’ nanomedicine, designed to target the point of inflammation.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast who devised the new drug believe it could become the first effective way of treating the serious condition, which affects 20% of all patients in intensive care.

There are 15,000 cases of ALI every year in the UK. These patients can become critically ill and develop problems with breathing when their lungs become inflamed and fill with fluid.

The main reasons for people to enter hospital with ALI are road traffic accidents and the escalation of serious infections, with many dying as a result of lung failure.

At present there are no effective treatments, although it is hoped that the new drug could revolutionise clinical management of patients in intensive care units.

Developed by a team of scientists and clinicians from the School of Pharmacy and Centre for Infection and Immunity at Queen’s, the ‘magic bullet’ is a nanoparticle measuring around one-billionth of a metre, which the patient can inhale. This takes it directly into the lungs and to the point of inflammation.

Current treatments are unable to target directly the inflammation and can result in unpleasant side effects.

ALI sufferers frequently require ventilators to aid breathing within an ICU hospital unit, with an ICU bed costing the NHS in excess of £1,800 per day - therefore the new drug could also help to significantly reduce costs.

“Nanoparticles are perhaps one of the most exciting new approaches to drug development,” said Professor Chris Scott from the School of Pharmacy, who is leading the research.

“Our research focuses on how nanoparticles interact with cells and how this can be exploited to produce therapeutic effects both in respiratory disease and cancer.”


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