Liposomes have been around for a while now. They were described for the first time in 1961 and it was quickly clear that they were very significant. However, it is in recent years that their usage is becoming widespread and their effectiveness almost custom tailored.
What are liposomes?
Liposomes are very small bubbles which have a membrane consisted of the same phospholipid bilayer that the cell membrane is consisted of. This produces a number of advantages.
But first we need to see what this phospholipid bilayer is.
Phospholipids are consisted of a head and two tails. The heads are hydrophilic, which means that they turn towards water, while the two tails are hydrophobic, which means they turn away from water. If two phospholipids are connected within an aqueous environment, due to this relationship of their parts with water, they will position themselves in a way that their tails are connected (facing inwards to each other), while their heads face outwards, towards the water environment.
When this phospholipid bilayer is formed into a spherical structure like a ball (the bubble we mentioned) it has an aqueous core which can carry drugs or vitamins which are water soluble – hydrophilic – and the middle of its membrane (the part with phospholipid tails) can carry drugs and vitamins which are fat soluble – hydrophobic.
This is a liposome!
As you can see, it can carry both water and fat soluble active content. But the phospholipid membrane has more benefits.
What is liposomal drug delivery system?
The liposomal delivery is the way to get intravenous absorption and efficacy, but without having to endure the invasive procedure. It makes it effortless for prolonged use.
The mechanism behind liposomes offers several benefits.
First of all, there is the protection of the active content (drugs, supplements, vitamins…). Most of any active content taken orally gets digested in the stomach and intestines, or destroyed by enzymes before it actually reaches the cells where it is needed. Not with liposomes! The phospholipid membrane of the liposomes is the same as the cell membrane, so all the things that cannot penetrate the cells also fail to damage the active content inside the liposome.
This means that, under perfect conditions, the active content is protected and virtually all of it gets exactly where it is needed. Having in mind the price difference and wastage of the active content during non-liposomal oral use, liposomal use can actually prove to be more price-efficient, as well as more beneficial. Liposomal vitamin C is a very good example. Bioavailability of vitamin C is not great and much of it gets wasted, but we all know how beneficial vitamin C is. Making use of liposomal vitamin C is the solution.
Secondly, many drugs that we use to treat one condition are detrimental to our body. Side effects from many drugs are all too common and especially so for drugs used to deal with pain and inflammation. However, liposomes do not only protect the active content from the outside perils; they also protect other cells and tissues from the detrimental effects of any damaging active content. The active content gets delivered exactly where needed and it does not damage anything else on the way. For example, many drugs damage stomach and intestines before they are released into the bloodstream. Liposomes encapsulate the drugs and do not let them exert any of the negative effects.
Thirdly, liposomes can vary in sizes. Making use of different sizes means that they can reach different places and use different routes to get there. There is no need to explain why this is beneficial, but many people don’t actually know how important this is for cancer patients. Namely, it is usually very difficult to distinguish which cells are tumor and which are healthy ones. This is why many cancer treatments are very bad for the healthy cells. However, tumor cells have a noticeably higher permeability and retention when compared to normal cells. This means that using larger liposomes prevents the active content from entering healthy cells, but allows it into the ones affected by tumor. This is known as passive targeting and it is a huge benefit of liposomes for cancer treatment.
Another huge advantage of liposomes is the fact that the cell membrane and the liposome membrane are consisted of the same phospholipid bilayer. This biocompatibility makes the targeted cells readily available to accept the active content inside the liposome. When a liposome reaches a cell, its membrane integrates itself into the cell membrane and its content is released inside the cell. This way, the last obstacle in the voyage of the active content to the interior of the cell is surmounted.
All of these features of liposomes should explain why they are the best solution for active content delivery, both in terms of efficacy and ease of use, having in mind that they require no invasive procedures and that they are used either orally or topically.
How are liposomes prepared?
There are many recipes for preparing liposomal supplements online but most of them will result in a poor product. Encapsulating a molecule into a liposome and creating the best product it can be is very difficult and it takes a lot of time and testing. Moreover, having in mind the sizes and targeting we mentioned previously, there is no way these kinds of liposomes can ever match the safety and efficacy of the ones made through completely controlled, thoroughly tested and certified process.
Just looking at the way liposomes exert their benefits makes it clear why random preparation process is far from good. Good liposomal products come from the combination of high quality raw materials, controlled and certified production process and thorough and continual research which results from the versatility that liposomes inherently have.
The more we learn about various diseases, the more valuable this knowledge is for the use of liposomal products. We learn what triggers certain intracellular processes, where these processes take place, how to reach these places, when to choose to release the active content, what to target and what to avoid…
Every new discovery creates a new benefit of the liposomal delivery system. Its adaptability and versatility make it widely applicable and liposomes are definitely the future of treating many conditions, but also improving prevention and the use of supplements.