New carrier targets pain reliever delivery

That ibuprofen you took to relieve a pounding headache needs time to take effect. It can also do a number on your stomach and leave deposits of the drug not only at the site of pain, but throughout your body. This means the drug is less efficient and less effective.

But what if there was a way to target pain, delivering the drug directly to the site?

According to new research at Western, this may be possible. A new drug carrier, when coupled with ibuprofen, would ensure pain-relieving drugs are taken directly to the site of pain, providing more efficient and targeted treatment.

Led by Western Chemistry professor Tsun-Kong Sham and PhD student Xiaoxuan Guo, in collaboration with Dr. Ying-Jie Zhu of the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the research consisted of using the Canadian Light Source synchrotron to study how Calcium Silicate Hydrate (CSH) nanostructures interact with ibuprofen.

CSH is a relatively new chemical in medical research, with potential benefits in the treatment of bone disease, acting as a non-toxic bone component. Together with ibuprofen, CSH could help relieve pain from fractures and bone surgery.

When it comes to targeted pain relief, CSH could be seen as a delivery truck, while ibuprofen is the cargo, Sham noted.

“What we are doing is not clinical research. We are trying to figure out how the drug (ibuprofen) is noted on this carrier (CSH), and what kind of carrier it is, and how we can control it,” Sham said.

“We’re looking to see how the drug can be loaded and unloaded in the system, by designing a carrier that’s non-toxic and biodegradable in the body,” he continued, adding the group is not yet close to clinical trials.

Sham’s team tracked how well CSH carried ibuprofen and found it could be heavily loaded with the drug, while maintaining the structural integrity of both. To do this, they used a powerful synchrotron technique called X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS).

“This finding tells us that we are in the right direction,” Sham continued.

“The benefit is, this may give the industry a new idea how to approach delivering a specific drug to a particular area. The important finding in our case is now we know what kind of material is compatible, and we can make (the carrier) in such a way that it can load a lot of the drug on it. We have some understanding now of how the carriers are loaded and what kind of consequence there is to the degrees of loading the carrier. This all indicates that this approach is actually workable.”

The benefit to the patient, Sham said, could range from countering the potential negative side effects, such as the degrading of one’s stomach lining that comes with heavy use of ibuprofen, to more efficient pain relief.

“If there is a way of delivering the drug to the area (of pain), then the drug can go directly in there and it would provide much faster relief and it doesn’t have to go through the body. It would just be a matter of the drug acting faster and being more effective,” he said.

Sham also said his research would not have been possible without the power of synchrotron radiation.

“One of the main things is, from my perspective, that our study could not have been done in the lab – it requires x-ray capabilities like the techniques available at the Canadian Light Source, a national facility located in Saskatoon.”

Sham’s team is among the first to explore how XAS synchrotron techniques could be used in drug delivery research. They plan to explore loading and unloading in a variety of other drug-carrier combinations in the future.