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Hydrogels Offer Safer Drug Release

Researchers are finding more uses for hydrogels due to the polymer’s versatility. In the latest work at the University of Florida (Gainesville), hydrogels have been incorporated into a drug delivery system that releases medication to a targeted area upon light activation. The system could provide a safer and more controlled way to deliver toxic drugs, such as those used to combat cancer.

The drugs are encased in a hydrogel. The gel is destablized via a process in which photons are applied and photo-sensitive azobenzene moieties (a functional group of molecules) and are incorporated into short DNA strands, which then isomerize. The single-stranded-DNA sequences that are attached to the hydrogel form stable duplex structures that cause the gelling and drug encapsulation. This process enables a fast transition from gel to a solution state.

Since it is made of inexpensive components, the drug delivery system has potential applications in many treatment areas. Advantages of the system include its flexible design, which allow the formulation to be changed based the desired medication. As a result, the system could be compatible with most drugs. In addition, the system enables a more controlled release of drugs; drug delivery systems often experience the problem of a lack of control in releasing medications.
The researchers are interested in licensing the patent-pending technology. For more information, contact the University of Florida’s Office of Technology Licensing.

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