While taking a medication is oftentimes as simple as popping a bottle cap and filling a glass of water, many patients do not realize the complexity of the work that led to manufacturing that drug. Researchers spend lengthy periods of time designing formulations that can extend the efficacy of medicine or increase its impact on relief.

One such researcher, Mohammad Nutan, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy is interested in bioavailability, or the rate and extent at which a substance is absorbed in the body.

“When you take a tablet of medication, it lasts for maybe just a few hours,” Nutan said. “We have the ability to extend the medication with design, whether it is prolonging it in some way or having someone consume the medication by an alternative method—intramuscularly for example. If we developed a formula that could extend the release of the medication, it could ease this process for patients.” An example of such release is Allegra® medications. A consumer can purchase a 12-hour formula or a 24-hour formula, depending on the needs of the patient.

Nutan is looking for ways to ease patient care and rehabilitation; and so far, has found means of prolonging the duration of action of medication in the body, making it more convenient for patients. His current research focuses on improving absorption of fat soluble drugs obtained from natural sources, thus the advantage of extending drug release is combined with the benefits of using natural products.

“One thing we often do is look at the effects of different factors used in different formulations to increase bioavailability,” Nutan said. “How do these factors truly affect it? We occasionally use experimental design, prepare multiple formulations and see which model works.”

By using experimental design, Nutan uses less time and resources to complete his research, which allows him to gather more data to find the formulation with optimized properties.

“The design allows you to measure the effects of various factors, such as particle size of the drug and the amount of each ingredient used, on some important factors including extent of drug release and product stability,” Nutan said. “The formula with the best desirable characteristics can be predicted by using software and consequently such formulation can be prepared to verify the expected outcomes.”

Nutan is currently studying curcumin, which is a natural substance in turmeric that is helpful in treating certain cancers and used as an antioxidant. Using animal models, he looks at the relationship between the changes in the experiment and the outcome after discovering how much of the drug is released at certain specific time points throughout the process.

More than just advancing discoveries himself, Nutan also encourages his research students to test things on their own. He allows them to propose what they’d like to research and he supports them as they learn.

“The first thing they learn – and I learned – is that not every experience works on the first try,” he said. “In fact, more times than not, you get to start all over. But that is the beauty of research – finding solutions where you least expected them.”

Nutan hopes his work in the area of medical absorption will offer patients solutions that will ease, and sometimes expedite, their health and rehabilitation journey.

— Cheri Shipman

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