Friday, June 14, 2013

These Nanovolcanoes Could Be the Future of Drug Delivery


A cross-section of newly-developed nanovolcanoes. Images by Chih-Hao Chang,

One of the perennial problems for both doctors and patients is making sure that drugs are taken at the right times and in the right amounts. What if, instead of shots or pills, medicine could be delivered to specific locations in precisely-modulated dosages? Researchers from North Carolina State University think their newly-developed "nanovolcanoes" could do just that.

The nanovolcano moniker is apt. The NC State researchers, who published their results in ACS Nano, say they can accurately design the size of the core and opening of the polymer-based nanovolcanoes, which would make them good candidates for any type of time-release application. The structures are produced on a film and etched with light (more on that in a moment), which makes it possible to produce them in large quantities.

Medicine is the application pitched by the researchers, but there are plenty of potential uses. Off the top of my head, filling them with a lubricant to add an extra wear-protection layer in bearings and car engines would be pretty cool, although figuring out what a nanoscale lubricant would look like is a whole separate engineering challenge.

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