Dr. Wang working in his labGood things come in small packages, which in the case of one WSU researcher’s work are measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter. Zhenjia Wang, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, designs new therapeutics—tiny nanoparticles capable of carrying drug molecules across the blood vessel barrier, directly to the diseased tissue that drugs need to treat.

With a five-year, $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Wang is testing nanoparticles he created from albumin, a plasma protein that is already running through our veins in abundance. He will determine whether the albumin nanoparticles can successfully attach themselves to neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that is known to automatically travel through the blood vessel barrier to fight infection or inflammation at its source.

“In this study, we specifically look at infectious and inflammatory lung diseases, such as pneumonia and acute lung injury, but this same technology could be applied to any disease that involves infection or inflammation, including cancer,” Wang said. In a separate project, he is looking at neutrophils as potential carriers for chemotherapy drugs.

If his hypothesis holds up, Wang’s study could lay the groundwork for more effective and efficient delivery of a wide variety of existing drugs. Since drugs would reach only the targeted site—rather than be released throughout the body—toxicity to healthy tissues would be minimized and drug doses could be lowered. Wang said targeted drug delivery is crucial to improving quality of life and increasing treatment options for patients, some of whom might not survive the side effects that come with the higher doses required by conventional drug delivery.

[Judith Van Dongen] 11/17/16