Vol.10, September 2017
Yoko Yamaguchi, Ph.D
CEO & President, Director of R&D
NANOEGG Research Laboratories, Inc.
St. Marianna University School of Medicine
I am a former physicist and used to conduct research liquid crystals of displays. After finishing my research on displays, I wondered what I should next. Well, I decided the research targets of physicists to be space or life sciences (living organisms). But the hurdle for astronauts is very high, so it became life sciences, and it was when I went to became it is the background that it went to St. Marianna University School of Medicine. This is the background to my current activities.
Drug Delivery System
Delivery of medicines via the skin is one form of delivery. From where do you deliver drugs? Vessels? Or what are the choices? My research was to deliver drugs ‘through the skin’. We established a drug delivery system (DDS) based on nanocapsules. The system consists of gel agents for putting them into the skin and so-called external base. This is the original base.
Our skin has a high barrier function to the adsorption of molecules, as we know from the fact the minute water molecules do not enter from our skin when we normally take a bath or go swimming in a pool. The skin functions so as not to allow things to pass through it.
The major characteristic of our skin is that it has a very large area compared to other organs. Therefore, utilizing the large area (of the skin) is a very good method in the sense of high efficiency.
So how do you put medicine into the body from the skin? The most important to consider carefully is the function that the skin should possess. What is the source of the barrier function of the skin? Well, the skin is composed of so-called keratinocytes, in other words layers of dirt due to sweat and so on. Simply having only layers of keratinocytes would allow things to pass through them. Hence the skin contains so-called lipids that act to adhere keratinocytes to each other and prevent things easily passing through the skin. Looking at his in the opposite sense, I thought putting in things that make lipids the targets would make them easier to enter the body. But how can I put things into lipids? I eventually thought of making a path for things to go through. We thought that one way to make a path would be by a structure with a slight gap. This is the basis for the development of our external base.
Designing Our Nanocapsules
We initially thought that nanocapules would pass through the skin. It proved to be not so simple. If we think about it, tiny water molecules to do not pass through skin.
So we thought that by producing a physio-chemical nanocapsules with surfaces that had similar properties to lipids then they would spontaneously pass into the body via electron affinity. So we designed such nanocapsule structures. By doing this we produced nanocapsules that passed into the skin by just applying them to the surface of the skin. In other words, capsules that went into the skin by simply ‘painting then onto the skin’. So we proposed the combination of both our nanocapsules and the external base is the best way to pass drugs into the body via the skin.
An important aspect to consider when thinking about making innovative and original things in our research was designing nanocapsules based on totally new concepts. The problem was, I thought that the action of ‘painting’ nanocapsules onto skin would break and destroy them. But making them robust would also make them indestructible inside living tissues, so it would be meaningless. Achieving a good balance was major hurdle during the development of the nanocapsules.
Another issue was determining what kinds of drugs could be put inside the capsules. Unfortunately, we have not yet resolved this problem. So what should be do? We decided to make external base that could be should to mix any kind of medicines. This was another hurdle. But fortunately, I am an expert on liquid crystals, so we were successful in making base based on liquid crystals.
“The catch phrase of our company is “skin research to medicine”. Producing medicine is one of our aims, which will take more than a decade. During this time my job is to manage the company and pay the salaries our employees. So a source of income is necessary. But we are doing skin research that has led to significant medical breakthroughs, so the questions arises as to commercialize our research on skin. The answer was cosmetics. By targeting skin care we thought we could deliver the message about our research, so we decided to focus on the development of cosmetics. Of course, because we are based on medicine, we were able to produce a very effective product that we are still developing and also sell commercially.
Our research enables us to produce medicines that can be put the body by percutaneous absorption and through the skin. It would be a major breakthrough to put vaccines into the body via the skin. They currently use injections. I think that children in developing countries would benefit because currently injections can only be given by trained medical professionals such as doctors and nurses. There are hygiene problems because the environment is also bad. If you can make something that does not use a needle, just paste it, then you can paste it yourself. This could save the lives of many of the world’s children. I think this would be an excellent area of research for the rest of my life. Also, in doing skin research we see many kinds of skin diseases. For example, atopic dermatitis. Why causes atopy? In reality, no one knows. So it is not possible to make medicines for treatment. We can only stop itching. I think we should conduct medical research for new and permanent cures. Our whole company has been consistently been developing permanent curative treatment of atopy.
Advantage of being based at Kingskyfront
Recently, there are increasing inquiries about cosmetics from overseas. Each year, I feel that it is necessary to increase the visibility our skincare internationally. Also, regarding pharmaceuticals, I think that we should increase awareness of our technology worldwide. In that sense, I believe that moving to KINGSKYFRONT is very advantageous for the future of our company.