Drug delivery that is sponge-worthy

Why settle for porous biomaterials that passively serve as scaffolding for tissue regeneration or cell therapy, when you could get them to work for you by squeezing out some medication like a sponge? That's what a group of researchers at Duke and Harvard universities have done in new material called a macroporous ferrogel. All they do is apply a magnetic field and they can force the material to compress as much as 70 percent, wringing out the drugs, cells or proteins embedded in the ferrogel.

The ferrogel contains magnetic iron nanoparticles, which respond to the magnetic fields. And the new ferrogel has larger pores than existing ones. "These bigger pores allow us to use drugs with larger molecules such as proteins and cells, and result in a much more significant squeeze when in the presence of a magnetic field," Duke researcher Xuanhe Zhao said.

How did they get the pores so big? Sponge-sicles. They freeze the gel, which results in water crystals carving out larger holes. Vary the temperature and duration of the freezing and you get different size holes that can delivery different types of medication.

- read the Harvard story