X-ray microscopy reveals unique insights of pre-aerosolized materials
The 2018 Global Asthma Report estimates that as many as 339 million people are affected by asthma with approximately 1000 people per day dying from this affliction. Inhalers are used every day by people with asthma as well as those with other chronic lung diseases. The creation of generic inhaler medications is essential for supplying cost effective medications to these people.
In order to create generic inhaler medications, companies must demonstrate bioequivalence (BE) between the candidate and reference product. This means that there is no significant difference between the two products in terms of the drug reaching the point of action. It has been difficult to set standards for BE for inhaled medications as both the patient’s airflow and the microstructure of the medicinal formulation have an influence on the aerosolization and thus on the drug reaching the lungs. Yet despite the importance of formulation microstructure, there is still much to be scientifically understood.
What led you to this line of research – using X-ray microscopy to investigate inhalation blends?
X-ray computed tomography (XCT) has become a popular tool in materials science due to its non-destructive but fully 3-dimensional nature. As far back as 2005, researchers began exploring whether XCT could help understand the structure of inhalation medicines, but the particle sizes were too small for the machine resolution at that time. ZEISS’ development of X-ray microscopes with increased contrast and resolution revived interest to see whether analysis of inhalation powders was now possible. This has become a central part of the INFORM 2020 project, funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Led by Professor Darragh Murnane at the University of Hertfordshire, the project also involves the Universities of Manchester, Leeds and Cambridge with the support of AstraZeneca, 3M, GlaxoSmithKline, Malvern Panalytical and ZEISS.