Researchers from Cardiff University, in collaboration with Astra Zeneca, have used artificial intelligence to create microscopic particles capable of transporting medicines to target and treat diseased cells – a process which they hope will have future applications in treating genetic and infectious diseases along with cancer.
The study made use of nanoparticles, tiny particles “that can act as microscopic shuttles to transport and deliver therapeutic molecules – medications – around the body to reach the specific site that needs a therapeutic intervention.” AI was used to design a bespoke nanoparticle to deliver a drug molecule, mRNA, to cancer cells.
Cardiff University states that the AI-designed nanoparticle was “proven to be more effective as a delivery shuttle compared with other prototypes”, and adds that the research showed how “machine learning and artificial intelligence can form an integral part of the design process for constructing more effective nano therapeutics”.
There are hopes also that the benefits of this technique could eventually become more widespread, with Professor Arwyn T Jones from Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences saying: “Whilst the nanoparticle generated through this study was within a narrow field of biomedical research, the new technique — based on computational learning and subsequent design of a new nanoparticle shuttle — was proven to be effective. This means this new technique could be used to analyse and design thousands of different types of nanoparticles and deliver hundreds of different types of therapeutic molecules to target a very wide range of diseases.”
Noting that the process of manufacturing and testing “often hundreds” of nanoparticle designs before identifying the most useful one “can take years, the university adds: “This new method shows how AI can rapidly accelerate the development of nanoparticles.”
Professor Jones concludes: “We are continually looking for new and improved ways of delivering drugs around the human body… By taking these drug molecules to the right location in the body, the nanoparticles can help to treat several different diseases.”