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Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2009 Feb 27;61(2):158-71. doi: 10.1016/j.addr.2008.11.002. Epub 2008 Dec 13.

Mucus-penetrating nanoparticles for drug and gene delivery to mucosal tissues.

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Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering (JH Primary Appointment), Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.


Mucus is a viscoelastic and adhesive gel that protects the lung airways, gastrointestinal (GI) tract, vagina, eye and other mucosal surfaces. Most foreign particulates, including conventional particle-based drug delivery systems, are efficiently trapped in human mucus layers by steric obstruction and/or adhesion. Trapped particles are typically removed from the mucosal tissue within seconds to a few hours depending on anatomical location, thereby strongly limiting the duration of sustained drug delivery locally. A number of debilitating diseases could be treated more effectively and with fewer side effects if drugs and genes could be more efficiently delivered to the underlying mucosal tissues in a controlled manner. This review first describes the tenacious mucus barrier properties that have precluded the efficient penetration of therapeutic particles. It then reviews the design and development of new mucus-penetrating particles that may avoid rapid mucus clearance mechanisms, and thereby provide targeted or sustained drug delivery for localized therapies in mucosal tissues.

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