Nanomedicine for the Treatment of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. The 2016 ATS Bear Cage Award-winning Proposal
After dozens of clinical trials, there are still no Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs that improve mortality in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). These poor results may be caused in part by three unique pharmacological challenges presented by ARDS: (1) Patients with ARDS are fragile because of concomitant multiple organ dysfunction, so they do not tolerate off-target side effects of drugs; (2) inhaled drug delivery is impeded by the column of proteinaceous fluid covering the injured alveoli; and (3) ARDS is heterogeneous in its underlying pathophysiology, so targeting one pathway is unlikely to improve most patients. To address these three pharmacological problems, I present the development of pulmonary endothelium-targeted liposomes (PELs). PELs are approximately 100-nm drug carriers coated with antibodies that bind to the pulmonary capillary endothelium. In model organisms, intravenously injected PELs strongly concentrate drugs in alveoli, even in animal models displaying severe, spatially heterogeneous pathology similar to severe ARDS. By concentrating drugs in inflamed alveoli, PELs solve pharmacological challenge (1) above. By being obligate intravenous medications, they solve challenge (2). Finally, because PELs can be loaded with at least three drugs, they can solve challenge (3) with combination drug therapy. My colleagues and I are currently testing PELs loaded with numerous candidate drugs in mouse models of ARDS, and we are testing drug distribution in live pigs and ex vivo human lungs. We aim to use such preclinical validation to move PELs into a partnership with industry, and then to patients.