Science 3 min read

Nanoscale Biodegradable 'Bottles' for Targeted Drug Delivery

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Forget the traditional drug delivery routes, like buccal, nasal, ocular, and other drug administration starting points! Targeted drug delivery, or smart drug delivery, is a sophisticated technology that carries medicine to the desired diseased organs or tissues within the body.

Decades of research are leading to the development of targeted drug delivery as a valuable tool in pharmaceutical therapies. Biomedical and chemical engineers are exploring many approaches and different materials to develop drug delivery vehicles.

Targeted Drug Delivery: Micro Glass Bottles as Drug Carriers

Delivering the active constituents of a drug to where it’s needed or the areas of discomfort could enhance drug absorption and improve patient convenience. It also reduces the side effects of the drugs and improves their cost-effectiveness.

Biocompatible drug delivery carriers can be designed from different types of materials, such as polymeric nanoparticles, inorganic nanoparticles, and other nanocomposite materials.

Engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created “nanoscale glass bottles” as a targeted drug delivery system.

Around 200 nanometers in size, the bottles are made from silica, a temperature-sensitive material.

Lead author of the paper Younan Xia, from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, explains:

“This new method could allow infusion therapies to target specific parts of the body and potentially negating certain side effects because the medicine is released only where there’s an elevated temperature. The rest of the drug remains encapsulated by the solid fatty acids inside the bottles, which are biocompatible and biodegradable.”

These tiny hollow spheres have a small opening in the surface, and they release their payloads only at specific temperatures.

How it Works

In their experiment, the team filled the nano bottles with a mixture of fatty acids, a near-infrared dye, and an anticancer drug.

At normothermia or the average human body temperature, the fatty acids keep their solid form. But if the temperature rises a few degrees and as the dye absorbs infrared laser, it melts (melting point at 39°C), releasing the drug payload.

Aside from using phase‐change materials, another advantage of this method is that the size of the hole in the nanocapsules’ surface can be adjusted to encapsulate a wide range of payloads and release them at different rates.

“This approach holds great promise for medical applications that require drugs to be released in a controlled fashion and has advantages over other methods of controlled drug release,” Xia said.

These silica‐based nanocapsules are biodegradable and biocompatible-controlled drug delivery vehicles. They can carry drugs and navigate through the body to a specific location, and respond to thermal changes in their biological environment to do the job.

This is one approach to targeted drug delivery systems, and there are many. But at least, there’s one area where this method, as a precision medicine tool, could set itself apart.

“This controlled release system enables us to deal with the adverse impacts associated with most chemotherapeutics by only releasing the drug at a dosage above the toxic level inside the diseased site.”

Read More: Gold-Glued Molecular Cages for Targeted Drug Delivery

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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