Magnetic nanosponges could wring in a new drug-delivery method

Magnetic sponges developed by researchers in Japan and Singapore could put the squeeze on disease. Chemistry World tells us about the work of Toshiaki Enoki and Yoshikazu Ito of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, who are using a network of nanosized magnets linked by springy molecules that could travel to specific parts of the body, then wring out therapeutics.

The magnetic sponges, themselves, are not new. They've been around since the 1990s. When the sponges absorb water they expand, so they've been promoted as sensors that can detect the presence of water. What Enoki and Ito have done, though, was figure out how to apply a magnetic field to squeeze the nanosponges when it reaches the area where the drug is to be released.

Jaume Veciana Miró, who Chemistry World says is an expert in magnetic sponges at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, calls the work a "breakthrough" in targeted drug delivery. "The result of Enoki and coworkers is a step forward for real applications in the field of molecular magnetism, since to date only sponge-like sensors [have been] reported," he notes.

But India's Jatinder Yakhmi, who did some initial research on magnetic sponges, threw some cold water on this latest breakthrough, pointing out that it was done in such low temperatures and with such a high magnetic field that immediate applications are out of the question. He'd be more excited if they squeezed those nanosponges at room temperature.

- read about the research in Chemistry World

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