Fat for better drug function

Aug 09, 2012
Associate professor Rebecca Carrier and graduate student Fulden Buyukozturk are exploring the role of fat molecules in drug absorption. Photo: Brooks Canaday.

Sci­en­tists have long known that food diges­tion affects the way the body absorbs var­ious compounds—from nutri­ents to drugs and toxins.

“You can get mul­tiple hun­dreds of per­cent improve­ment in bioavail­ability if you dose a com­pound in the pres­ence of a high fat mol­e­cule,” said Rebecca Car­rier, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of chem­ical engi­neering at North­eastern University.

The problem with that approach, how­ever, is that its unpre­dictability pre­vents doc­tors from using that knowl­edge to reduce drug dosages and improve drug delivery. “We don’t know when it’s going to happen and when it’s not going to happen,” Car­rier explained. “It’s not amenable to any form of quan­ti­ta­tive pre­dic­tion at this point.”

But that may soon change.

Car­rier has recently received a $1.8 mil­lion grant from the National Insti­tutes of Health with the hope of under­standing the mech­a­nisms behind this phe­nom­enon. “We want to develop pre­dic­tive models for how ingested lipids, or mol­e­cules, change the way your body absorbs dif­ferent com­pounds,” she said.

Drugs and nutri­ents, such as vit­amin B6, are often insol­uble in water. Since approx­i­mately 50 to 65 per­cent of the adult body is made up of water, these com­pounds have a hard time making their way into the blood stream. When lipids are nearby, they engulf these com­pounds and increase their solubility.

As Car­rier put it, “When you ingest some­thing, it changes the envi­ron­ment that the drug mol­e­cule sees.”

The project will ben­efit from the exper­tise of two other North­eastern fac­ulty members—Mansoor Amiji, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor and Chair of the Depart­ment of Phar­ma­ceu­tical Sci­ences, and David Budil, asso­ciate pro­fessor of chem­istry and chem­ical biology and asso­ciate dean for research in the Col­lege of Sci­ence.

Amiji will assist the Car­rier group with under­standing the rela­tion­ship between lab­o­ra­tory results and phe­nomena in the body. Budil, for his part, will use his exper­tise in chem­ical analysis to help Car­rier track the loca­tion of the body’s molecules.

Budil’s work will examine the body’s overall absorp­tion of drugs, but the phe­nom­enon is a cul­mi­na­tion of many dif­ferent fac­tors, including gas­troin­testinal mucus.

Exploring the prop­er­ties of the GI mucus bar­rier is the focus of another of Carrier’s projects, which is being sup­ported by a dif­ferent NIH grant. Car­rier noted that the prop­er­ties of the GI mucus bar­rier “are sig­nif­i­cantly mod­u­lated by stimuli asso­ci­ated with eating.”

“GI mucus is a very inter­esting hydrogel,” she added. “It is able to pro­tect you from this crazy envi­ron­ment of mil­lions and mil­lions of microor­gan­isms yet effi­ciently allows absorp­tion of all the com­pounds you need.”

Explore further: Video: How did life on Earth begin?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

3Qs: The fastest man on no legs

Jul 30, 2012

South African double-​​amputee Oscar Pis­to­rius will com­pete in the 400-​​meter sprint at the 2012 London Olympics wearing high-​​tech carbon-​​fiber ...

The risk of carrying a cup of coffee

Jun 15, 2012

Object manip­u­la­tion or tool use is almost a uniquely human trait, said Dagmar Sternad, director of Northeastern’s Action Lab, a research group inter­ested in move­ment coor­di­na­tion. ...

3Qs: Celebrating America's independence

Jul 04, 2012

Wednesday marks the country’s annual cel­e­bra­tion of the adop­tion of the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence on July 4, 1776. But there are many inter­esting his­tor­ical ...

Chipping away at cancer

Jun 25, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- In the last two decades, the number of deaths from col­orectal cancer has steadily declined, according to the Amer­ican Cancer Society. While some of the decrease can be attrib­uted ...

Recommended for you

Chemical biologists find new halogenation enzyme

Sep 15, 2014

Molecules containing carbon-halogen bonds are produced naturally across all kingdoms of life and constitute a large family of natural products with a broad range of biological activities. The presence of halogen substituents ...

Protein secrets of Ebola virus

Sep 15, 2014

The current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, which has claimed more than 2000 lives, has highlighted the need for a deeper understanding of the molecular biology of the virus that could be critical in ...

Protein courtship revealed through chemist's lens

Sep 15, 2014

Staying clear of diseases requires that the proteins in our cells cooperate with one another. But, it has been a well-guarded secret how tens of thousands of different proteins find the correct dancing partners ...

User comments : 0