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Liposomes as Nutrient and Drug Delivery Vehicles

Erol Onel

As vice president of Heron Therapeutics, Dr. Erol Onel draws on more than a decade of experience in pharmaceutical development. Dr. Erol Onel stands out as a former member of the executive team at Pacira Pharmaceuticals, where he oversaw the production and regulatory approval of liposome injectables.

For more than 50 years, pharmaceutical developers have used liposomes to deliver nutrients and drugs to the body's internal cells and tissues. The drug or nutrient fills the center of the spherical liposome, the outside of which consists of two layers of phospholipids.
Liposomes are predisposed to form a sphere because of their unique makeup. Whereas the head of a phospholipid is hydrophilic, meaning “attracted to water,” the tail is hydrophobic and naturally pulls away from water. When in a water-based solution, the tails of the phospholipids turn away from the water and the heads turn toward it. This naturally forms a bilayer membrane.
Pharmaceutical science does not yet understand how liposomes break apart and release their therapeutic centers. Some believe that cells throughout the body steal phospholipids from the liposome and thus cause the nutrient to leak out, while others posit that the liver breaks down the liposome and therefore releases the nutrient. However, despite the uncertainty of the process itself, multiple studies have revealed the effectiveness of liposomes as a nutrient and drug delivery vehicle.

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