New drug delivery system developed for ectopic pregnancy


Researchers have developed a method of administrating methotrexate through polymersomes for improved efficacy when treating ectopic pregnancy.

New drug delivery system developed for ectopic pregnancy | Image Credit: © - © -

New drug delivery system developed for ectopic pregnancy | Image Credit: © - © -

A new drug delivery system for treating women with ectopic pregnancy has been developed by researchers in the Oregon State University College of Pharmacy.

Ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition where a fertilized egg implants outside the lining of the uterus. About 98% of ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tubes, leading to increased risks of hemorrhage and death.

Approximately 2% of pregnancies in the United States and 1% to 2% worldwide are ectopic, with about 100,000 ectopic pregnancies seen in the United States per year. They are the leading cause of maternal death in the first trimester.

Methotrexate (MTX) has a failure rate of over 10% for treating ectopic pregnancies because of improper accumulation at the implantation site. Researchers developed a drug delivery system to administer MTX through nanoparticles known as polymersomes. This improves the rate of accumulation for MTX and can be given at a comparatively low dose.

Polymersomes are synthetic versions of liposomes. The polymersomes developed by the research team would respond to high concentrations of glutathione in placental cells. This response is achieved at the appropriate time by loading MTX into the polymersomes.

When MTX is delivered, embryonic cells stop dividing. However, this increases the risks of adverse effects such as nausea, vomiting, elevated liver enzymes, diarrhea, lung disease, and kidney damage. A lower dose would reduce adverse events and improve efficacy, according to scientists.

“Developing drugs able to target specific locations in the body remains one of biomedicine’s greatest challenges,” said Olena Taratula of the OSU College of Pharmacy and lead of the study team. “Most of the drugs prescribed today, including MTX, have no means of working only on specific tissues or cells.” 

“When drugs affect healthy cells, it can drastically reduce a patient’s quality of life – think of the severe effects of chemotherapy like hair, loss of the lining of the gut, ulcer formation, nausea, etc,” Taratula added.

According to Taratula, the study of MTX delivered by polymersomes in mice induced end of pregnancy and led to healthy offspring being born. Taratula has recently received a grant to develop a magnetic nanoparticle platformthat may be more effective than the light-sensitive nanoparticles currently used because of having deeper tissue penetration.


New drug delivery system shows promise in treatment of life-threatening pregnancy condition. Oregon State University. July 24, 2023. Accessed July 25, 2023.

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