York chemists pioneer new directional drug release gel

Posted on 15 September 2017

Scientists in the Department of Chemistry have created a new smart gel that can be shaped by UV light and is able to control the direction in which drugs are released.

Materials that control the release of an active drug have potential applications as smart drug delivery vehicles for use in medicine. For example, a gel that only releases its payload when brought into contact with the target, such as a tumour or inflamed tissue, can achieve targeted release.

In an innovative approach, PhD student Phillip Chivers, funded by EPSRC and working in Professor David Smith’s research team, created hybrid hydrogels that incorporate the active anti-inflammatory painkiller drug naproxen and release it in a directional manner depending on the surrounding environment. 

Their hybrid gel combines two different components:

  • A self-assembling gel network interacts with the drug and hence controls its release depending on the acidity (pH) of the surrounding environment
  • A polymer gel makes the gel physically robust – it is formed by light under a mask, allowing gels of any shape to be generated

This approach leads to a shaped gel, which controls the release of the active drug. The image shows a drug-loaded gel that has been patterned into a stripe – if different sides of the stripe are exposed to solutions of different pH values, the drug is preferentially released in one direction.

Professor Smith said: “This is an important first step to showing we can make smart hydrogels that release an active agent depending on what they come into contact with.

“Future work will focus on developing systems which respond to a variety of biological stimuli so this directional release can be used to release drugs to important disease targets.”

Read the full story here.

Notes to editors: