The expanding role of aerosols in systemic drug delivery, gene therapy, and vaccination

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125 Scopus citations


Aerosolized medications have been used for centuries to treat respiratory diseases. Until recently, inhalation therapy focused primarily on the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and the pressurized metered-dose inhaler was the delivery device of choice. However, the role of aerosol therapy is clearly expanding beyond that initial focus. This expansion has been driven by the Montreal protocol and the need to eliminate chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from traditional metered-dose inhalers, by the need for delivery devices and formulations that can efficiently and reproducibly target the systemic circulation for the delivery of proteins and peptides, and by developments in medicine that have made it possible to consider curing lung diseases with aerosolized gene therapy and preventing epidemics of influenza and measles with aerosolized vaccines. Each of these drivers has contributed to a decade or more of unprecedented research and innovation that has altered how we think about aerosol delivery and has expanded the role of aerosol therapy into the fields of systemic drug delivery, gene therapy, and vaccination. During this decade of innovation, we have witnessed the coming of age of dry powder inhalers, the development of new soft mist inhalers, and improved pressurized metered-dose inhaler delivery as a result of the replacement of CFC propellants with hydrofluoroalkane. The continued expansion of the role of aerosol therapy will probably depend on demonstration of the safety of this route of administration for drugs that have their targets outside the lung and are administered long term (eg, insulin aerosol), on the development of new drugs and drug carriers that can efficiently target hard-to-reach cell populations within the lungs of patients with disease (eg, patients with cystic fibrosis or lung cancer), and on the development of devices that improve aerosol delivery to infants, so that early intervention in disease processes with aerosol therapy has a high probability of success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1161-1174
Number of pages14
JournalRespiratory care
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • Aerosol
  • Bioterrorism
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • DPI
  • Diabetes
  • Drug delivery
  • Gene therapy
  • Influenza
  • Insulin
  • Lung cancer
  • MDI
  • Measles
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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