Columbia Study Finds Exosome-Based Inhalable Therapy Is a Big Step Forward in Lung Cancer Research

Representation of exosome

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers and has one of the lowest survival rates in the world. Cytokines, which are small signaling proteins, such as interleukin-12 (IL-12), have demonstrated considerable potential as robust tumor suppressors. However, their applications are limited due to a multitude of severe side effects. In a paper published January 11, 2024 by Nature Nanotechnology, Biomedical Engineering Professor Ke Cheng, PhDand his research group at the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science, together with a collaborator from the University of North Carolina, demonstrate that using nanobubbles, called exosomes, through an inhalation treatment method can directly deliver IL-12 messenger RNA (mRNA) to the lungs. mRNAs are the blueprints for producing specific proteins that participate in a variety of cellular functions. While scientists have previously used liposomes (tiny fat-based particles) or lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) to deliver mRNA, this method has several problems, including a lack of tissue homing, where the particles do not go to the target organs, and concerns about the potential toxicity after long-term exposure. Over the past 15 years, Cheng’s group has been developing exosomes for use as superior drug delivery carriers over liposomes and LNPs in specific indications. The new Nature Nanotechnology article is titled “Inhalable Extracellular Vesicle Delivery of IL-12 mRNA to Treat Lung Cancer and Promote Systemic Immunity.”

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