A team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and elsewhere have discovered a way to deliver drugs to the affected body region, without introducing any external instruments into the body.
Most medicines take time to reach the affected body part and while travelling, they spread to other areas. However, this problem has now been addressed, according to a finding published by MIT postdoc Siyuan Rao, Associate Professor Polina Anikeeva, and 14 others at MIT, Stanford University, Harvard University, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in the journal ‘Nature Nanotechnology’ by MIT.
In a report published by MIT News, Anikeeva said, “We wanted a system that could deliver a drug with temporal precision, and could eventually target a particular location, and if we don’t want it to be invasive, we need to find a non-invasive way to trigger the release.”
With this technology, the drug could directly be delivered to lets say, a specific group of neurons in the brain. The process uses tiny magnetic particles wrapped inside a bubble of lipids (fatty molecules) filled with water, known as a ‘liposome’. Upon applying magnetic heat, the drug escapes from the liposome into the surrounding tissue.
Since magnetic fields can easily penetrate the body, like MRI, they are a safe option to use to trigger the process. However, a weak magnetic field has to be applied to prevent damaging the drug and the surrounding tissue, explained Rao.
When the nanoparticles wrapped inside the liposomes are exposed to a high-frequency but low-strength magnetic field, they heat up, warming up the lipids, causing them to liquidify so they can escape into the surrounding areas. After the magnetic field is switched off, the lipids solidify again, preventing any further releases. This process ensures timely dosages in controlled amounts to the precise area of the body.
While the drug remains stable inside the body at a temperature of 37 degree Celsius, it is undergoing further developments to ensure it is safe to use, whilst calibrating a way of making liposomes of a highly uniform size.