Athletes may think twice before going in for performance enhancing drugs. For an international team of experts say they have discovered a polymer that can help detect such drugs.
"With this discovery, scientists testing for performance enhancing drugs will be able to coat an electric probe with a polymer and dip that probe into blood," Dr Michael Stockenhuber from the University of Newcastle explained.
"An electrical signal would quickly and accurately indicate the presence of the drug.
Polymers used in current testing methods do not stick to the blood as efficiently and the results are not as precise or fast as they could be."
The research done in collaboration with the University of Cardiff in Wales was to find for the first time how complex molecules and imprinted polymers (synthetic plastic materials) bind together.
It should now be possible to optimise the design of polymers so that they can detect and separate enzymes, proteins and drugs in complex mixtures such as blood.
A more targeted delivery of drugs is also possible now, it is pointed out.
"Controlling the direction of drugs in the human body would be particularly helpful with very potent drugs that fight cancer," Dr Stockenhuber said.
"Mixing the polymer with a drug means that it can be directed straight to the unhealthy cells unlike current drugs, which kill all cells."
The research has been published in the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) Journal,