Nanoscience and drug delivery — small particles for big problems | Taylor Mabe | TEDxGreensboro

Translator: Thomas Tam
Reviewer: Zsófia Herczeg It was 1990, and I was a seven-year-old
pruning tobacco on my family farm. I was happy because I was in the row
next to my grandfather. He was different than most grandpas,
but I didn’t care – I loved that man. He had these old weathered hands
with big blue veins, and when he wasn’t paying attention,
I’d poke at those things. (Laugher) This particular day,
we played our usual game. Who could get to the end
of their tobacco row the fastest? I won. But when I finished,
I looked down on the dirt to see a Mason jar
with clear liquid in it. I picked it up and asked, “Grandpa, I thought you weren’t supposed
to have any more of these lying around.” (Laugher) “Son, that’s been there
a week or more, yeah. Maybe even five or six days.” A week or more? Five or six days? As a seven-year-old even I knew
how many days are in a week. (Laughter) But that wasn’t the first time
my grandfather was confused. Ralph Mabe was a moonshine-making, law-breaking, cool grandpa. (Laughter) He would sneak off into the woods
where he ran a moonshine still. Now, this led to grandpa
going to “college” a lot. (Laugher) That was our family slang for prison. (Laugher) I was twelve when we buried him. That impacted me. I remember crying in the attic
of 317 Summit Street. That was the first time,
I’d dealt with death and with addiction, but it wasn’t my last. In my early 20s, I moved
to Wilmington, North Carolina, and I fell in love with that city. There I met a guy named Bridge,
who was my best friend, and he’s in the audience today. He was battling addiction, and he told me of this implant
that he had, which kept him off drugs. This fascinated me. This was my spark. I felt like Sir Isaac Newton
when that apple fell and he thought, “Gravity?” Being around Bridge, I saw the faces
come and go of treatment centers. Now, these people knew pain. They would be happy and healthy one day, relapse, and become completely
consumed by their addiction. I thought of grandpa. Treatments for addiction
have improved some since that hot summer day in 1990,
but not drastically. Of the people who seek treatment, 93% fail. So we’re doing a terrible job
of treating this disease. Would Goodyear Tire be in business
if 93% of their product failed? No. So it’s time to think differently
about this issue. Nanoscience may be the solution. Before we go down the “nano” trail, let’s take a look at the challenges
that current medications are up against. So when you swallow a pill, what happens to it? It goes down the esophagus, and from that point,
it has to get past five barriers. Let’s think of this like a video game. Our character, Peter Pillhead, has a pill for a head. So you need to pay attention
to three areas for our video game: his strength indicator –
shown by that battery – each barrier, and his head. Ready to play? (Video game sound effect) So the first barrier is the stomach. This acidic environment
can degrade our drug. For Peter, this is an obstacle. After 37 minutes,
Peter enters the intestine. The intestinal wall – to cross that,
we have to be small and chemically fit. As you may see by his head,
Peter loses some of the pill. (Sound effect) The liver is the next barrier. Now, this is the organ that’s responsible for eliminating
the harmful effects of medication. So the enzymes in here degrade Peter
as seen by his decaying head. (Sound effect) Level four, or barrier four: our proteins
and enzymes in the bloodstream. The proteins can bind to the drug,
and the enzymes can put him in a headlock. So this will take us, if we get past this – you’ve seen Peter
already lost most of his head – (Sound effect) to the final barrier:
the blood-brain barrier. This is a protective barrier that only allows small,
fat-soluble drugs to pass through. For Peter, this is a total loss, he loses all of this head and … (Sound effect) the game’s over – we lose. So, if we even make it to this point,
we still have issues. The graph you’ve seen is called
peak-and-valley delivery. So the medicine has to be ingested
over and over again to remain effective in the body. The blue dashed line you’re seeing is the level at which the medicine
becomes effective, and the green is the level at which the medicine
becomes harmful or toxic. So, the name of the game is to stay
in between those two lines. Think about taking a Tylenol. If you don’t take enough,
your headache doesn’t go away. But if you take too much,
it could shut down your liver. So this brings us to the issue
of side effects. Side effects occur when medicines
bind somewhere else, other than their intended target. Now, as seen in our video game, some of the medicine
was lost along the way. So, when you take a pill, the dose could be 100 times more
than what’s needed. Because so much of the medicine
is lost along the way, like we saw at each barrier, a massive dose is required. So in some cases, as much as 95%
of the medicine is lost along the way. A guy named David Anderson in his TED Talk
had an analogy that I really like. He said, “Current medication
is like getting a can of oil and pouring it all over your car engine. Some of that oil will dribble
into the right spot, but the majority of it is wasted,
and some even does harm.” So, we need a way to target the medicine so that it’s only released
at specific sites. If we could do this,
the dose would decrease, and as a result, side effects
would decrease. So, we need a way for the medicine
to not wonder off and bind in the other sites in the body. So there are two ways to solve this. One, we continue down
the same rabbit trail where big pharma spends
over a billion dollars in 15 years to develop one single drug. Or two, we could use the drugs
that are known to work, that just have a hard time
getting to where they need to go, so change the way they’re delivered. The latter is how nanoscience emerges
as a potential solution. What is nanoscience? Nanoscience is the science of the small, and we’re using that
to solve big problems. But how small? The diameter of a baseball
is 7.5 centimeters, 75 billion – billion! – nanometers. If we went down further in size
to like a marble, a marble is about 1.5 centimeters. You in the back
probably can’t even see it, but a marble is 15 billion nanometers. If we went down even further to a BB, and I’ve glued one onto a piece
of cardboard, like from a kid’s BB gun. That’s half of a centimeter, 5 billion nanometers across. So in our lab, we make nanoparticles
between 2 and 20 nanometers. So these things are really, really small. What’s so cool about that? What’s cool is that you can put
things inside of them; even though they are small,
a single drug molecule is smaller. So I’ve made a model just to show you all. What I’m holding would be a nanoparticle, and that blue ball on the inside
would be like a drug molecule. This really isn’t an accurate
size description. If you wanted to see
something more accurate, it would be like putting –
say this is our nanoparticle, and these are our drugs. If this was hollow, we could fit
a lot BBs inside there, right! These things are small, and they can carry
a large payload of drugs. They can go through the body
and function like a vehicle, like a truck. For our case, let’s call it
as a “nanotruck.” It can travel through the bloodstream,
carry drugs in the truck bed. It has a GPS that we programmed
to go wherever we desire. The scientists call this “targeting.” So that aims to deliver medicine
only at specific places – only at diseased sites. This is achieved by adding
compounds on the outside that function like “molecular keys.” How do we make these things? Well, I spent months trying to make
a unique nanoparticle, and no matter what I did,
the synthesis was unsuccessful. My father always says
that the struggle is in the details. He’s right. After months of botched experiments,
I finally found out that the pipette I was using
was contaminating my nanoparticles. Synthesis like this can be very tedious. So as I was going through
all of this trouble, wouldn’t it be great if the nanoparticle
could just make itself, if it could self-assemble? It kind of can. Think of oil in water. What happens when you pour oil into water? They don’t mix. But if we had a heavy oil that would
go to the bottom of the water, it would self-assemble
into these little balls. So let’s see a lab video of just that. So, those red balls
would be the oil-like substance. So what we could do is
we could take that, mix drugs with it, drop both of them in water, and those little balls would form
with the drug molecules on the inside. From that point, we could start
reducing the size and decorating the outside
with the homing molecules, the “GPS.” Now, this is a very simplified version of how the nanoparticle can
essentially make itself. I’m not inventing a new drug here, all we’re doing is making
little bitty vehicles that transport current drugs – essentially teaching old dogs,
well, old drugs, new tricks. So, the chemistry is still magic to me;
it still gets me excited. I love piddling around in the lab. The benefits of this research are vast and could potentially
save millions of lives. And it could also get us
past those five barriers. Do you remember them? Let’s play our game again –
I hate losing. I do not like losing.
I’m very competitive. And I think some of the people
in the audience will attest to that. But let’s play our video game again. This time let me introduce you
to our new character: “Super Nan,” or “Super Nano,” right? So now, our medicine is encased
in our little nanoparticle and is protected. The outside is decorated
with fat-like molecules. So, (Video game sound effect) let’s play. (Sound effect) Level one, or barrier one, is the stomach. The acid degraded the pill from before. So this time, we’re protected by Super Nan,
and glide right through, fully intact. (Sound effect) Level two was the intestinal wall. Before, Peter couldn’t really
get through that, but Super Nan kind of knows
the secret handshake – he’s got that oil on the outside – so he can pass right through
to barrier three. (Sound effect) Barrier three is the liver; it has enzymes in it
that degraded the pill from before. Super Nan passes right through this. (Sound effect) Level four, proteins and enzymes
in the bloodstream. Remember before
they put Peter in a headlock? The Super Nan passes right through this
onto the fifth barrier. (Sound effect) That was the blood-brain barrier. Remember we had to be small
and fat-soluble to get through this? We decorate the outside of Super Nan
with those fat-like molecules, so we can pass right through. Now, we’re inside the brain. Super Nan now has a mission, and that’s to go around and identify
the bad guys, or the bad cells. He goes, “Good cell, good cell,
good cell, good cell – bad cell.” Target acquired. So then, like a Trojan horse,
it moves inside, opens and releases the drugs. So let’s see a video,
or an animation, of just that. (Sound effect) So we win. I told you, I don’t like to lose. (Sound effect ends) So here’s our video. This is our nanovehicle, and the blue cells are the healthy ones,
and the red is the bad. We target. I think it’s cute that the little
drug molecule say TED on it. But as you can see by the video,
the blue cells were just simply ignored, and the red ones were targeted, or the red one was targeted. So now, let’s compare
the delivery profile of the nanomedicine to that of traditional medicine. So, you remember
the peak-and-valley profile? And the name of the game was to stay
in between the effective and toxic level. It was clearly evident by the graph that the nanomedicine
does this far better. It would eventually fall, but we can program that
to last days, weeks or months. For chronic medicine, you would want
the medicine inside of a person for a long period of time. So to achieve this, you could either make
the delivery profile stay for months, or we could put in an implant
like Bridge had and work on making those last longer. I think his only worked
for about two months, but we desire them to last much longer. So a personal goal of mine
is to make a drug delivery system that lasts about 12 months. So, how is this currently
impacting our world? This technology can be applied
to any drug and for any disease. The drug Doxil is already
being applied to cancer, and that’s already seeing the benefits. Type 2 diabetes has a drug
called Bydureon, which is already showing the benefits
of sustained release as well. My passion to unravel addiction
is what drives me. Seeing so many talented people
experience senseless pain was upsetting. A good friend told me that addiction is
when you can’t get enough of what you do not want. I love that. He said, “Addiction is when you
can’t get enough of what you don’t want.” I’m sure Ralph Mabe didn’t want
that Mason jar hiding in the dirt. And I’m sure he didn’t want to let his family down
over and over again. And I am sure he didn’t want to leave me
in the attic of Summit Street, crying. But nanoscience may be onto a solution, and there are people like Bridge
who are living proof that people change. Thank you. (Applause)


  1. If you can’t kill cancer in less than three months your method sucks it’s no good it’s worthless

  2. The true Cure to cancer is not their drugs it’s the carrier think it’s the drugs to the places that is actually the cure they’re just trying to sell drugs and manipulate everyone I talk to like this guy is doing he’s a freaking moron

  3. Now he’s talking about unraveling addiction others to things that will do this no matter what he says colloidal gold and urine has built-in medication by God himself in your Urine by looping urine and eating fruit and vegetables and drinking distilled water you get rid of any disease

  4. Alcoholism what does parasites Need sugar.. kill the parasites bacteria worms and pathogen‘s and you get rid of the addiction to alcohol to balance the system you can use to methods urine. And colloidal gold.

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