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Targeted delivery of drugs to their site of action is a promising strategy to decrease adverse effects and enhance efficacy, but successful applications of this strategy have been scarce. Human bone is a tissue with unique properties due to its high hydroxyapatite mineral content. However, with the exception of bisphosphonates, bone mineral has not been targeted in a successful clinical application of drugs that act on bone, such as anti-resorptive or bone anabolic agents. Herein we present an NMR-based in vitro assay to measure binding affinities of small molecules to hydroxyapatite (HAP) or bone powder. Binding was shown to be specific and competitive, and the assay can be carried out in a direct binding format or in competition mode. A selection of clinically relevant bisphosphonates was ranked by their binding affinity for HAP. The binding affinity decreases in the order: pamidronate > alendronate > zoledronate > risedronate > ibandronate. The differences in binding affinities span a factor of 2.1 between pamidronate and ibandronate, consistent with previous studies. The rank order is very similar with bone powder, although the binding capacity of bone powder is smaller and binding kinetics are slower. A zoledronate derivative that lacks the central hydroxy group binds to HAP with 2.3-fold weaker affinity than zoledronate itself. Any small molecule can be analyzed for its binding to HAP or bone powder, and the binding of common bone-staining agents such as alizarin and its derivatives was confirmed in the new assay. This assay supports a strategy for targeted delivery of drugs to bone by attaching a bone-affinity tag to the active drug substance.


Wolfgang Jahnke, Chrystèle Henry. An in vitro assay to measure targeted drug delivery to bone mineral. ChemMedChem. 2010 May 3;5(5):770-6

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PMID: 20209564

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