Mucus-penetrating nanoparticles for drug and gene delivery to mucosal tissues

Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2009 Feb 27;61(2):158-71. doi: 10.1016/j.addr.2008.11.002. Epub 2008 Dec 13.


Mucus is a viscoelastic and adhesive gel that protects the lung airways, gastrointestinal (GI) tract, vagina, eye and other mucosal surfaces. Most foreign particulates, including conventional particle-based drug delivery systems, are efficiently trapped in human mucus layers by steric obstruction and/or adhesion. Trapped particles are typically removed from the mucosal tissue within seconds to a few hours depending on anatomical location, thereby strongly limiting the duration of sustained drug delivery locally. A number of debilitating diseases could be treated more effectively and with fewer side effects if drugs and genes could be more efficiently delivered to the underlying mucosal tissues in a controlled manner. This review first describes the tenacious mucus barrier properties that have precluded the efficient penetration of therapeutic particles. It then reviews the design and development of new mucus-penetrating particles that may avoid rapid mucus clearance mechanisms, and thereby provide targeted or sustained drug delivery for localized therapies in mucosal tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Carriers / administration & dosage*
  • Drug Carriers / pharmacokinetics
  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Mucous Membrane / metabolism*
  • Mucus / chemistry
  • Mucus / metabolism*
  • Nanoparticles / administration & dosage*
  • Viscosity


  • Drug Carriers