University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy Researcher Receives $2.1 Million Grant for Cystic Fibrosis Treatment

Sept. 28, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — A University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy researcher has received a $2.1 million grant to develop new techniques for drug delivery to the lungs, helping in the fight against such lung diseases as cystic fibrosis.

Dr. Hugh Smyth, assistant professor of pharmaceutics, was awarded the grant from the National Institute of Health's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

"Cystic fibrosis is one of the most common fatal inherited diseases," said Smyth, adding that most individuals with cystic fibrosis die in their 20s and 30s from lung failure.

One of the major reasons for the poor life expectancy is the inability of treatment therapies to overcome barriers within the airways created by the disease, he said.

"The drugs cannot get to the lung cells responsible for cystic fibrosis symptoms," Smyth said.

The gene that leads to cystic fibrosis was discovered 20 years ago, Smyth said. Researchers devised gene therapy treatment protocols that promised a cure within reach. But, secretions of a dense, sticky mucus, a symptom of the disease, create barriers that are almost impossible to break through.

"Losing patients to cystic fibrosis is especially tragic since we know what causes it and what could be effective in treating it, but we can't break through the barriers," he said.

Smyth's research works to break open or "knife" through the sticky secretions so that gene therapies and drugs to treat symptoms can get to the cells. Research has shown that drugs can be pulled through the sticky secretions.

"It turns out that the sticky secretions are susceptible very small particles in a magnetic field," Smyth said.

Researchers in the lab use magnetic fields to move extremely tiny particles called nanoparticles that are administered to the lungs. Magnetic fields, like those used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are then used to basically turn the particles into nanoknives that slice through or break up the secretions. They also can pull drugs and gene therapies through the sticky secretions using magnets that are slightly stronger than refrigerator magnets.

These processes, Smyth said, will open pathways through the secretions that will permit the drugs and gene therapy to reach their target. This type of nanoparticles has proved both safe and effective in MRI imaging and Smyth feels the process holds promise for treating cystic fibrosis patients.

Findings from his studies are believed to have applicability to many other lung diseases such as tuberculosis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic lung infections.

For more information, contact: Nancy Neff; Hugh Smyth, College of Pharmacy, 512-471-3383.

8 Comments to "University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy Researcher Receives $2.1 Million Grant for Cystic Fibrosis Treatment"

1.  Patti Blackwell said on Sept. 28, 2010

My step brother died 20 yrs ago at the age of 33 from CF and he was one of the oldest in the Houston area. We have come along way in detecting the inherit genes and identifying carriers. I am a research nurse and was so pleased to read this article!

2.  Mick'n Zeno said on Sept. 30, 2010

This is great. I'm so amazed and I really hope this is a success!!

3.  David Darling said on Sept. 30, 2010

Please continue to support this research, these CF patients deserve a full life.
Thank You Dr. Smyth for your work.

4.  Aaron Morris said on Sept. 30, 2010

I am a healthy 28 year old with CF. Things like this make so much of an impact on the CF community, as it shows that real treatment may be right around the corner.

5.  Anita Dingman said on Oct. 5, 2010

I hope this research will help develop more treatments for CF patients. My daughter (who lives near Austin) is 45 and she has had many different treatments over the years. They each work for a while and then something new is needed. So far researchers have found something new each time she has needed it. Now if they could just find a cure.

6.  Deborah Vanlandingham said on Oct. 6, 2010

Read about this young lady's fight to stay alive...I am thankful for the $2.1 million grant for Cystic Fibrosis treatment. As I think back 16 days ago, I realize that a lot has happened during my stay here at the University of Miami hospital. In a nutshell it has been constant work, work, work. My goal of trying to get my lung function back up has been a continuous fight while arm wrestling with the infection that has caused trouble in my lungs. My stay has consisted of hours of breathing treatments each day, chest physiotherapy (40 minutes of vest and an hour of manual chest PT each day), lab work, X-rays, Pulmonary Function Tests and I.V. therapy. At this point I'm running on empty. But I know if I give up, I won't get anywhere.

I know that my body has been on a roller coaster ride and I've had a few minor set backs. Dr. Light knows that we still have a lot of work to do and I'm ready to put in the time if he is behind me. My mind continues to be strong focusing on the fact that things are going to get better and my body and lungs will eventually catch up. Because I have to believe that there is more than this...that I can be better than this.

7.  Barbara Ganson, Ph.D. said on Oct. 7, 2010

As the great aunt of a CF two-year-old patient and a genetic carrier of CF, I certainly hope you can do something to wipe out this terrible disease and help those afflicted live longer and better quality lives. Congratulations on getting a generous research award.

8.  Joe Hatch said on Nov. 9, 2010

I know that I am not the oldest but one of the healthiest with CF. I turned 55 years old last February 2010. I outlived my parents. I am slowing down a bunch these days. But I still work full time, golf, scuba dive and fish in my spare time. I am thrilled with this research and grant to further the work. My lung function has dropped considerably this year. So I am interested in the new ideas for cures. I would love to be 103 years old.

Please spend the money wisely and pray for God's guidance. I know he will help you in this great cause and contact me if I can be of help whatsoever.