Mucus-penetrating nanoparticles for drug and gene delivery to mucosal tissues

Samuel K. Lai, Ying Ying Wang, Justin Hanes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1085 Scopus citations


Mucus is a viscoelastic and adhesive gel that protects the lung airways, gastrointestinal (GI) tract, vagina, eye and other mucosal surfaces. Most foreign particulates, including conventional particle-based drug delivery systems, are efficiently trapped in human mucus layers by steric obstruction and/or adhesion. Trapped particles are typically removed from the mucosal tissue within seconds to a few hours depending on anatomical location, thereby strongly limiting the duration of sustained drug delivery locally. A number of debilitating diseases could be treated more effectively and with fewer side effects if drugs and genes could be more efficiently delivered to the underlying mucosal tissues in a controlled manner. This review first describes the tenacious mucus barrier properties that have precluded the efficient penetration of therapeutic particles. It then reviews the design and development of new mucus-penetrating particles that may avoid rapid mucus clearance mechanisms, and thereby provide targeted or sustained drug delivery for localized therapies in mucosal tissues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-171
Number of pages14
JournalAdvanced Drug Delivery Reviews
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 27 2009


  • Mucus
  • Mucus barrier properties
  • Mucus-penetrating particles
  • Therapeutic particles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science


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