Artificial cell receptors that mimic those found in nature and possess the potential to be adapted for use in drug delivery have now been created.

The transfer of nutrients from the blood stream into mammalian cells can now be recreated with the help of compounds that mimic cell receptor proteins.


Delivery of molecules is usually achieved through receptors found on the outer surface of the cell that bind to and shuttle nutrients through the membrane. Research groups, including one led by Blake Peterson at Penn State University, US, have shown how small molecules can be synthesised to copy this behaviour.

Drug delivery using these artificial receptors has the potential to be an important application for this research. Transporting drugs into cells and tissues in this way could be an improvement on classical lipid-based systems which involve liposomes.

Peterson is also looking to extend this research to try and create synthetic mimics of receptors used for signalling within cells. This would enable a wide range of biological processes to be controlled for the first time.

Suzanne J Abbott