Micrometer-sized capsules that can safely deliver drugs inside living cells have been developed by experts at Queen Mary, University of London. These capsules can allow full courses of prescription drugs to be effectively "shrink-wrapped" and buried under the skin or inside the body.
Writing about their innovation, they have revealed that the "micro shuttles" can be loaded with a specific dose of medication and be opened remotely.
The scientists say that these capsules can even help implant drugs inside the body for use when they are needed, such as delivering insulin for managing diabetes.
Their release could then be prompted by a biological trigger like a drop in blood sugar levels, or activated manually with a pulse of light.
Prof Gleb Sukhorukov and PhD student Matthieu Bedard, of Queen Mary's School of Engineering and Materials Science, have found the new technique to work in living tissue by delivering fluorescent test-molecules in light-activated capsules.
They carried out this work in collaboration with Dr. Sebastian Springer, at Jacobs University in Bremen, and colleagues from the Max Plank Institute of Colloids.
Matthieu Bedard said: "The main advantage of using such microcapsules is that they can be designed to be very stable inside the body, protecting their contents. This is particularly important for the many medications that are rapidly degraded or altered by the body. These capsules can be used to 'store' drugs in the body for later use."
Prof Gleb Sukhorukov said: "This new technique could have many biological applications, including delivering DNA into cells for gene therapy. The capsules could also be filled in with magnetic particles that collect and extract miniscule samples from inside cells. Other applications could see patients needing internal medication after surgery being administered drugs without the need for further invasive procedures or hospital visits."
Sukhorukov adde: "However, there are still questions about how to direct the capsules to the right cells as well as finding a way to make capsules that are safe for human use. It is possible that we will see useful applications for this technology being tested in the next five years."
A research article describing as to how the study was carried out has been published in the journal Small.