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What is Targeted Drug Delivery?

By R.Chin
Updated May 17, 2024
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For certain diseases, such as cancer, treatment is only effective on certain parts of the body or cell types. Targeted drug delivery is a method of treatment that attempts to distribute medicine only to the areas that require or can benefit from it. The goal is to increase effectiveness and cut down on waste. This is usually achieved either chemically, micromechanically, or by selective external delivery.

At the most basic level, targeted drug delivery is the science of getting medication where it is needed. Normal drug delivery through traditional liquids or pills often disperses medication throughout the body, and only small portion of is actually used for treatment. This method requires a higher overall dose of the medicine. When the drug is aimed at specific targets, it can be more effective at lower concentrations, reducing both cost and the amount of foreign substances introduced into the body.

Targeted drug delivery takes a number of forms. Local anesthetic is an example of selective external delivery, as the drug only numbs a certain area. In this case, the targeting is very obvious. By contrast, some treatments of diseases such as cancer require distinguishing between individual cells. They may have to find a way to treat parts of the body that are not easily accessible. The brain, for example, is delicate and complicated enough to be problematic for many forms of medication. Chemical or micromechanical targeted drug delivery is applied in these cases to obtain the necessary precision.

Chemical targeted drug delivery usually involves developing medication that will react only under certain conditions; this may be in certain areas or in the presence of a particular chemical cocktail. Micromechanical drug delivery uses nanosystems and other tiny delivery methods including valves to release drugs only after a predetermined length of time, or to cells that fit a certain set of parameters. Oftentimes, micromechanical methods will emulate or take advantage of the human body’s natural functions such as blood circulation or absorption of certain nutrients.

Targeted drug delivery is a popular field of research, as most people have a personal stake in their own or their loved ones’ health. Many drugs used in cancer treatment are toxic to healthy cells as well as tumorous ones, and so being able to target only the unwanted cells makes it possible to greatly reduce the suffering of those who are ill. In addition to major illness, however, it is thought that targeted drug delivery can help improve general health by allowing for patient-specific and time-delayed nutrients.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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