Visions of self-assembling nanomedicine dance in researchers' heads

Oh, if only everything in life could be self-assembling. Well, in the world of nanomedicine, no instructions are needed. Drug-delivery devices and imaging agents assemble themselves as they cruise through the body, transporting medicine and imaging agents through barriers that were previously impenetrable.

This happy snapshot of the future of medicine comes courtesy of researchers from Duke University and the University of Southern California in an article in Technology & Innovation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors.

"Nanoscale self-assembly devices are complex structures organized from simpler subcomponents--either naturally occurring or engineered--which assume complex structures difficult to attain by chemical synthesis," author Ashutosh Chilkoti, professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University, said in a release. "Their disassociation can be triggered by external stimuli, which serve as mechanisms to release therapeutic payloads."

Translation: it all comes together through nature or engineering, then it releases drugs when and where it's needed.

The material is made up of micelles that self-assemble from recombinant polypeptides. J. Andrew MacKay of the University of Southern California says the key to it all is in the stability of micelles. And to achieve that, MacKay said in a release, they're looking to "tune" the micelles for stability at the genetic level.

"Thus, we believe that genetically encoded polypeptide micelles are likely to play an increasing role in the design of next generation nanoscale carriers of drug and imaging agents," MacKay said in a statement.

- take a look at the release
- and the abstract in Technology & Innovation