What Is A Liposome, and How Can They Make Us Healthier?
If you consider yourself the health-savvy type, you’ve likely heard of liposomal vitamins and supplements. After all, you’ve stumbled across this blog for a reason. Maybe you’re a liposomal pro, or you’re just beginning your research into different supplement delivery systems. Either way, there are probably things you don’t know about this hard-working vesicle or how it has revolutionized the fields of medicine and health. Let’s talk about the liposome – its past, present, and bright future.
A liposome is essentially a tiny bubble that’s made of similar materials as a cellular membrane. The membrane of a cell is made of phospholipids, which are molecules that have two different groups: The head is attracted to water, and the tail is repelled by it. Together, these two groups form a bilayer that protects whatever’s inside.
Liposomes were first discovered by a British hematologist, Alec Bangham, in Cambridge in 1961. He and his colleague were testing a new electron microscope by adding negative stain to dry phospholipids, when they noticed the phospholipid structure. The resulting pictures from the microscope served as the first real evidence for the cell membrane being a bilayer lipid structure.
Four years later, Bangham and his colleagues were joined by an American physician, Gerald Weissmann, and together they would make history. A paper effectively launched the liposome industry in that year, with Weissmann proposing the name “liposome” to replace its former moniker, the “Banghasome.” Hence, liposomes became the newest possible drug delivery vehicle.
Liposomes in Drug Delivery
It wasn’t until 1971 that liposomes were first proposed as a method of drug delivery by Gregory Gregoriadis, who is still a professor at the University of London. However, the first trials of liposomal drug delivery were fraught with problems; for example, the entrapped molecules within the two phospholipid layers often leaked, affecting the drug’s absorption into the body. Scientists struggled to trigger the release of the contents within the liposome. After tinkering with the formula, they found that they could trigger the release of the substance remotely (through heat or light) or intrinsically (a change in pH or activating a certain enzyme).
Once scientists perfected the liposomal technology and realized its effectiveness, they began to apply it in different fields of medicine. Here are some of its applications:
- Research suggests that liposomal chemotherapy treatments reduce the amount of cardiotoxicity (weakening of the heart muscle) compared to freeform versions.
- Treating white blood cell malignancy complications. Cancers that affect the white blood cells, such as lymphoma, can create life-threatening side effects such as lymphomatous meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord). Liposomal therapies can effectively target the swelling and help prevent neurological deterioration.
- Small interfering RNA has become an effective method of silencing or stopping the coding of protein genes. When combined with liposomal delivery, this technology has been effective in battling hepatitis, HIV, and certain types of cancers.
Liposomes and Vitamin Delivery
It wasn’t until the past few years that we realized how liposomal delivery can revolutionize vitamin administration. Fat-soluble formulations, such as vitamins A, E, and D, traditionally required high doses because of their low bioavailability. Unfortunately, this also increased the risk of toxicity to the surrounding cells. With liposomal technology, we can decrease the dosage of these vitamins and ensure your body is only getting what it needs.
Vitamin C is another example of a vitamin with low bioavailability; in a traditional oral capsule, you can expect to absorb about 20% of what’s inside. With liposomal technology, your absorption rate rises to almost 90%.
Antioxidant vitamins E, C, and A have been used as dietary supplements to provide prophylaxis (a form of prevention) for the many diseases associated with oxidative stress (this encompasses conditions from Alzheimer’s disease to cataracts).
Liposomal vitamins and antioxidants can supplement your healthy lifestyle. Combined with a fruit- and veggie-rich diet and exercise, liposomal technology can help you make up for any nutrient deficiencies and help you feel your best.