NANOTECHNOLOGY is being used at the University of Newcastle to design a new pharmaceutical system to better target drugs in the body.
The system had the potential to “revolutionise the way we treat patients”, Dr Susan Hua said.
Hunter business leaders hope emerging industries like nanotechnology will present economic opportunities in future.
Dr Hua, a senior lecturer in the health and medicine faculty, said nanotechnology was “a cutting-edge research area globally”.
She manufactured tiny products, which she called “nano-vehicles or nano-carriers”.
“A strain of hair is 60,000 nanometres,” she said.
“What we create is 100 nanometres – it’s tiny.”
Her work involved “reformulating the way drugs work’’.
That is, designing drugs to work like a GPS to direct medicine to disease-affected areas of the body.
Presently, medications “go everywhere in the body”.
“If you look at cancer patients, they suffer serious side effects from the medication used to treat their conditions,” she said.
“Patients with pain take a lot of medication and can get severely sedated, which can affect their quality of life.”
Her research could lead to a better experience for patients, some of whom take medication several times a day.
In future, many different drugs could be put into one nano-carrier.
“You would increase the therapeutic effect of the drug, so it actually worked better,” Dr Hua said.
“You’d have decreased side effects and toxicity because the drug would not go to other places in the body.”
This could improve the success of medication, decreasing hospital stays and healthcare costs.
A project with mothers and babies had led to an international patent and progressed to primate studies.
“We hope to get to clinical studies soon,” she said.
Dr Hua runs a “translational nano-pharmaceutics lab”, which used science to improve human health and wellbeing.
“We do everything from manufacturing to testing, from cell studies to animal studies,” she said.
It was like a “one-stop shop” to determine if a technique was “good or not”.
Her work was done with the Hunter Medical Research Institute.
Director Michael Nilsson said the institute had “the size and scale to compete and collaborate with the world’s top research centres”.
Professor Nilsson said “game-changing innovations can emerge quite suddenly in the medical research sphere” in the right environment.