New Nanocarrier May Advance Treatment of Lung Damage in Pulmonary Fibrosis, Mouse Study Shows

New Nanocarrier May Advance Treatment of Lung Damage in Pulmonary Fibrosis, Mouse Study Shows

A new nanocarrier has been developed that is able to selectively deliver medicines to damaged cells in the lungs, alleviating fibrosis in mice, a study reports. 

Based on a naturally occurring process called cell senescence, the system also helps reduce the therapies’ toxic effects on healthy cells, and represents a promising technology for the treatment of conditions such as pulmonary fibrosis and cancer.

“This nano-carrier may pave the way for new therapeutic approaches for serious conditions, such as pulmonary fibrosis or to eliminate chemotherapy-induced senescent cells,” Manuel Serrano, PhD, senior author of the study and a Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies researcher at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona, said in a press release.

The study, “A versatile drug delivery system targeting senescent cells,” was published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Cell senescence is triggered by cell damage, in which cells cease to divide and proliferate but don’t die — these cells are often referred to as “zombie cells.” Upon persistent damage or aging, senescent cells may accumulate and lead to chronic inflammation and fibrosis.

In fact, senescent cells have been shown to contribute to multiple conditions including cancer and pulmonary fibrosis.

Nanocarriers are used to transport substances, such as medicines, within the body. In this case, the nanocarrier was developed based on a sugar molecule called galactose, which is preferentially taken up by damaged cells undergoing senescence. Taking advantage of this feature, researchers designed a drug encapsulating system composed of galactose-based molecules that selectively releases medicines into senescent cells.

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The effectiveness of the new nanocarriers in delivering medicines to tissues containing high concentrations of senescent cells was demonstrated in vitro and in two experimental mouse models, one of cancer and the other of pulmonary fibrosis.

In the mouse model of cancer and chemotherapy-induced senescence, the nanocarriers were seen to improve the delivery of doxorubicin — a cell-killing agent used in cancer treatment — to senescent tumor cells. In combination with the chemotherapy palbociclib (sold under the brand name Ibrance), this treatment increased tumor shrinking, compared with free doxorubicin plus palbociclib.

Moreover, the nanocarrier also improved the treatment of lung damage in mouse models of pulmonary fibrosis. In mice injected with doxorubicin-loaded nanocarriers, the therapy was preferentially released to senescing cells in the lung, killing them and, in turn, lowering collagen deposition and recovering breathing capacity, compared with untreated animals or those treated with doxorubicin alone.

One important advantage of this carrier is that it reduces the toxic side effects of therapies because it prevents their delivery to healthy, non-senescent cells.

Another potential application of the tool is to aid in diagnosis through clinical imaging, because the nanocarriers can transport fluorescent molecules that can be used to track damaged, senescent cells in the body.


  1. Timothy Middleton says:

    Would love to participate in these trials. Pulmonary fibrosis patients are desperately seeking a cure or trials to participate in. Results like these give us hope. I hope things progress faster than other breakthroughs have, the others seem to announce something great and then disappear off the planet. We never hear of it failed in later studies or if money was an issue either. If money was an issue for a worth while treatment I’m sure we could help raise funds if this was going to save our lives.

    • patrick wilkinson says:

      Exactly, so much talk about stem cell treatments coming but consultants say not for 10 years yet when it seems they are ready to go, we are all ready to try anything to get our lives back

  2. Sylvain L Schwartz says:

    Is there a link to a website listing new medication trials for Pulmonary Fibrosis looking for volunteers?….or you have to be a mouse to enroll?!…

  3. Max Proctor says:

    are there any trials? I have It lung fibrosis as it started developing as I aged. I am now approaching 70 and have had ILF for four years! I thing sustained the damage at birth when I weighed 4 lbs 8 oz and was 2 months premature and they just stuck me in a oxygen tent. Damage has now shown up! Non smoker college athlete and cross country runner for over thirty years, excellent health except for lungs!

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