Drug delivery may be possible through new polymer bathed in infrared light

Researchers have discovered a new kind of polymer that disintegrates when bathed in low-powered near-infrared light. The finding, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, is published in the journal Macromolecules.

The finding may not seem like drug delivery technology on first read. But researchers believe it is, and could lead to some inventive ways to target treatments for cancer or other diseases.

Here's why: The scientists note that low-powered near-infrared light, which is just beyond human eyesight, penetrates through the skin and nearly four inches underneath it without injuring tissue along the way. High-powered near-infrared light can do the same with current smart materials, but it would more than likely damage tissues and cells.

So the discovery of a polymer that breaks apart into tiny pieces when bathed in safer, low-powered near-infrared light gets placed into a compelling context. (Yet to be determined is how safe the polymer would be to humans.)

The scientists believe that their new polymer could be filled with anti-cancer medicine, for example, injected into a tumor and then targeted with low-powered near-infrared light, releasing a concentrated dose exactly where it is needed. Or the material could be placed inside an implantable hydrogel used for drug delivery, which could release medications when hit with the light.

The study also demonstrates how multidisciplinary drug delivery research is becoming. The researchers' specialties include pharmaceutical science, nano-engineering and biomedical science.

- here's the release
- check out the paper abstract