Hydrogel time bombs set off explosive drug release

Japanese researchers have created timed drug "bombs" that release tiny and targeted explosions of drug from hydrogels. Being able to time and target drug delivery could cut side effects and improve drug treatment, for example, by timing doses of drugs over a given period.

The delivery system, developed at the National Institute for Materials Science (MANA), is based on a "smart" hydrogel polymer combined with a therapeutic and a chemical called o-NBA, which changes pH when it is irradiated with UV light. This triggers the polymer to release its payload of drug.

The researchers tested the concept by loading the gel with L-DOPA, used to treat Parkinson's disease. When the gel was irradiated, it released L-DOPA, followed by an "explosive" release 5 hours later. The results were published in Science and Technology of Advanced Materials.

According to the team, this could lead to a programmable drug delivery system that could deliver tailored amounts of drug at specific points during the treatment period, potentially improving compliance.

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- see the abstract

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