Liposomes were first produced in England in 1961 by Alec D. Bangham, who was studying phospholipids and blood clotting. It was found that phospholipids combined with water immediately formed a sphere because one end of each molecule is water soluble, while the opposite end is water insoluble. Water-soluble medications added to the water were trapped inside the aggregation of the hydrophobic ends; fat-soluble medications were incorporated into the phospholipid layer.
In some cases liposomes attach to cellular membranes and appear to fuse with them, releasing their contents into the cell. Sometimes they are taken up by the cell, and their phospholipids are incorporated into the cell membrane while the drug trapped inside is released. In the case of phagocytic cells, the liposomes are taken up, the phospholipid walls are acted upon by organelles called lysosomes, and the medication is released. Liposomal delivery systems are still largely experimental; the precise mechanisms of their action in the body are under study, as are ways in which to target them to specific diseased tissues.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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