Nanomedicine targeted delivery of therapeutics to the placenta to treat preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is the leading cause of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality, responsible for 60,000 deaths annually and far higher rates of perinatal loss. In preeclamptic pregnancies the placenta is dysfunctional, releasing excess levels of anti-blood vessel toxin sFlt1 into the mother’s blood stream, causing significant injury to her vessels and major organs. Currently no cure exists, apart from removal of the dysfunctional placenta, meaning the baby may need to be born prematurely to save the mother. Aside from the enormous costs associated with neonatal intensive care, preterm birth may have life-long health consequences for the infant, including cerebral palsy, chronic lung disease, profound disability, and death. A therapeutic strategy allowing preterm pregnancies to gain gestation and improve fetal outcomes is urgently needed.
Over the past decade there have been significant advances in targeted drug delivery systems, primarily led by the field of oncology. The approach has been to develop biocompatible nanocarriers that can target the delivery of anti-cancer drugs specifically to malignant tissues. Excitingly for the oncology field these targeted delivery systems have now advanced to major clinical trials.
Targeted delivery of therapeutics directly to the placenta to stop or reduce excess release of toxic sFlt1 could prevent maternal vessel and organ injury, without the fear of fetal toxicity. Dampening the release of toxic sFlt1 may allow the pregnancy to continue long enough for the baby to be born at a safer gestation.
A/Professor Natalie Hannan – Group leader and Principle Research Fellow
Dr Natalie Binder – Post-doctoral scientist
Ms Sally Beard – Research Assistant