Researchers in Singapore have created silicon "nanocages" to carry protein-based drugs past the body's natural defenses.
The main ingredient for these nanoparticles is the biodegradable polymer polylactic acid, which the scientists at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) found can assemble itself into structures capable of carrying materials, according to a report from Nanowerk. There are two types of mirror-image versions of polylactic acid, and when they meet up, they interlock to form distinct shapes.
And to control which shapes they end up with, the scientists employed a rigid framework of silicon to act like a mold, guiding the polymer. The nanocages significantly improved the nanoparticle stability, according to the report: The structures kept their shape after a month in solution.
The nanoparticles have potential in a number of areas, giving fragile protein-based drugs such as insulin unprecedented stability. Because these proteins are so bulky and easily broken down in the gut, researchers are continually looking for new ways to deliver them. The scientists also expect the nanoparticles to play a part in medical devices, namely implants, where they can act as "filler" substances to increase the strength of the device.