Size really does matter! Professor Satya Sarker talks nanomedicine.

Satya, how did nanomedicine start and what is the general theory around its’ purpose? Ie. why is small good?

A- The putative beginning of nanomedicine can be linked to the uses of colloidal gold by Arabian, Chinese and Indian scientists as early as in 500 BCE. Chinese “golden solution” and Indian “liquid gold” are the oldest examples of medicinal uses of gold particles. However, Metchnikov and Ehrlich, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1908, are considered as the pioneers of nanomedicine for their works on phagocytosis.

Yes, size really does matter! Nanoparticles have a diameter ranging from 1 (1 billionth of a metre) to 100 nanometres. They possess distinct physicochemical properties microparticles or coarse particles, which allow them to penetrate cells more efficiently, and therefore can be used as effective transport and delivery systems. For example, for medicinal purposes, drugs can either be integrated into the matrix of the particle or attached to its surface.  


Q – What have we learned about how nanotechnology is useful in the treatment of disease and illness. Which materials are best or is it ‘horses for courses’?

A- This is too big a question! What we have learned about how nanotechnology is useful in the treatment of disease and illnesses or what materials are best, are articulated in different chapters in our book, Advances in Nanotechnology-based Drug Delivery Systems. It is almost impossible to state that in one or two sentences. However, in general, nanotechnology delivers a unique approach that ensures higher drug efficacy, targeted drug delivery, on demand delivery and biocompatibility, and thus impact positively on various treatments of diseases and illnesses. It has already been demonstrated in numerous scientific papers that nano-therapeutics can be effective for the treatment of various forms of cancer, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer diseases.


Q – Some observers say its progress been a little disappointing. Is that fair?

A- I would tend to disagree with this observation. Nanotechnology covers a vast area and has its applications almost in all avenues of our life. This technology has already transformed various areas such as medicine, biomedical, chemical, mechanical and electronics science. More can be learned from our book, Advances in Nanotechnology-based Drug Delivery Systems.


Q – The Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines incorporate some nanomaterials, don’t they? What other examples may people be aware of?

A- Yes, you are right – indeed lipid nanoparticles are a vital component of the Pfizer/BioTech and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, and they play a significant role in protecting, transporting and delivering the mRNA to the target. When it comes to precise, stable and efficient delivery of a number of therapeutic agents, nanomaterials (e.g., lipid nanoparticles) and nanotechnology can be extremely useful, and there are so many examples to choose from; again, probably the best place to find specific examples is our book Advances in Nanotechnology-based Drug Delivery Systems.


Q – Tell us something exciting about emerging developments in this field? Is your LJMU team working on anything in particular?

A- Nanoparticles, particularly lipid nanoparticles, have emerged as one of the key players in drug delivery research and applications. Moreover, emerging developments in the use of nanoparticles may include their potential use as an alternative carrier to emulsions in cosmeceuticals and cosmetics, food and nutrition industries; for example, dermatological and skincare products.

Yes, within the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, researchers from our Drug Delivery and Formulation Group, have long been working with nano-carrier based targeted delivery of known therapeutics and also natural products, e.g., curcumin and resveratrol. This group has recently been developing nanocarrier systems incorporating antimicrobial peptides and has tested a range of peptides and nanocarrier systems with those showing promise being further investigated. These have also tested against different strains of SARS-CoV-2.


Q – What feedback have you had from the book?

A - The book has just been published. Probably, it is too early to receive any formal feedback, but from the reactions and comments on the social media, e.g., Tweeter, LinkedIn and ResearchGate, it is fair to say that this book has so far been well received by the research community.


Talukdar AD, Sarker SD and Patra JK (2022) Advances in Nanotechnology-based Drug Delivery Systems – Nanotechnology in Biomedicine, Elsevier, USA



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