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Creating a Potential New Drug-Delivery System From Grapefruit Juice


Courtesy of USDA

A new study, funded in part by NCCAM, has found promise in using tiny particles from grapefruit juice to make micro-capsules that can safely deliver drugs and biologic agents to the body. The study, which was conducted in cell cultures and in mice, used nanotechnology, a cutting-edge field of research in which technologies and products are developed from materials roughly under 100 nanometers in size (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter, so 100 nanometers is one ten-millionth of a meter). The study was published in the online journal Nature Communications.

The research team wanted to examine whether tiny vectors (carriers) could be made from edible, nontoxic plants and would pose fewer issues than vectors from mammalian or artificial sources. They analyzed three fruits and found that grapefruit offered the most lipid nanoparticles for making vectors. From these, they assembled novel “grapefruit-derived nanovectors” (GNVs) and tested them in the laboratory in various cell types. The GNVs were taken up by target cells efficiently and readily, were stable, and could deliver a broad range of anti-cancer agents.

Moving to animal studies, the team tested GNVs with several anti-cancer agents (two chemotherapy drugs, forms of RNA and DNA, and antibodies) in two mouse models of cancer. They observed that the GNV-agent combinations had long staying power in the body, created no signs of adverse effects or toxicity, and, in a combination with the chemotherapy drug JSI-124, reduced tumor growth and increased mouse survival.

The authors concluded that their GNV approach appears effective and safe (even potentially for pregnant women), although it needs further testing. In addition to safety, the advantages appear to include relative simplicity and low cost; the ability to be modified or customized (for example, according to desired targets and therapeutic needs); and application to many agents and diseases.


  • Wang Q, Zhuang X, Mu J, et al. Delivery of therapeutic agents by nanoparticles made of grapefruit-derived lipids. Nature Communications [online journal]. 2013;4(1867). Accessed at on May 21, 2013.
Publication Date: 
May 21, 2013

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This page last modified June 24, 2013