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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007;620:117-28.

Liposomes in biology and medicine.

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Institute of Molecular Cancer Research, University of Zurich, Switzerland.


Drug delivery systems (DDS) have become important tools for the specific delivery of a large number of drug molecules. Since their discovery in the 1960s liposomes were recognized as models to study biological membranes and as versatile DDS of both hydrophilic and lipophilic molecules. Liposomes--nanosized unilamellar phospholipid bilayer vesicles--undoubtedly represent the most extensively studied and advanced drug delivery vehicles. After a long period of research and development efforts, liposome-formulated drugs have now entered the clinics to treat cancer and systemic or local fungal infections, mainly because they are biologically inert and biocompatible and practically do not cause unwanted toxic or antigenic reactions. A novel, up-coming and promising therapy approach for the treatment of solid tumors is the depletion of macrophages, particularly tumor associated macrophages with bisphosphonate-containing liposomes. In the advent of the use of genetic material as therapeutic molecules the development of delivery systems to target such novel drug molecules to cells or to target organs becomes increasingly important. Liposomes, in particular lipid-DNA complexes termed lipoplexes, compete successfully with viral gene transfection systems in this field of application. Future DDS will mostly be based on protein, peptide and DNA therapeutics and their next generation analogs and derivatives. Due to their versatility and vast body of known properties liposome-based formulations will continue to occupy a leading role among the large selection of emerging DDS.

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