“Active droplets” for precise dosing of medication
Researchers at the Technical University of Munich have developed active droplets that consist of a mixture of oil droplets and hydrogel. These can not only precisely dose active pharmaceutical ingredients, but can also be administered continuously over periods of up to several days. The drugs in the droplets are released at a constant rate. This reduces the risk of overdosing or underdosing.
Active droplets for infusions
Professor Job Boekhoven actually studied the origins of life. Together with his team, the chemist wanted to understand how molecules in the Urozean succeeded in connecting the precursors of first life and forming cells. He says that his team experimented with oil drops in the research work. The researchers were particularly interested in mechanisms that protect molecules from degradation. They have also discovered that unstable molecules that form oil droplets survive much longer than molecules that cannot form droplets. In a sense, the droplets protect the molecules inside.
However, the oily protective shield is not completely impermeable and some of the oil molecules react with the surrounding water. This hydrolysis causes the droplets to slowly but continuously lose mass and shrink until they finally disappear. “The constant disintegration of these 'active droplets' led us to the idea of using them to dose medication,” remembers Boekhoven.
Pharmacologists have long searched for methods to deliver drugs at a constant rate. The ingredients of ointments or tablets are usually released quickly, which increases the risk of overdose. In addition, the rapid release shortens the duration of the intended effect. Methods of releasing drugs at constant rates over long periods of time are rare and often complicated to manufacture.
The scientists found that the droplets release the drug continuously as they get smaller. It follows that the rate of drug release remains constant throughout the period. Boekhoven thus explains the process of possible drug administration. He adds that the strength of this approach lies in its simplicity. You only need three components: droplets of a hydrolyzable oil, a drug that is distributed in the oil, and a hydrogel that stabilizes the position of the droplets, the professor says.
Many areas of application
With the new oil-hydrogel mixture, active ingredients can not only be administered continuously, but also at a predetermined rate. The droplets can be loaded with larger or smaller doses of active ingredients. These are released as soon as the oil droplets come into contact with the water in the blood or tissue. The hydrolysis proceeds at a constant rate until the droplets have completely dissolved.
Active droplets have many potential uses. For example, they could be used in disinfectants or healing wounds to accelerate slow healing. After the study, a patent application has already been filed for the oil hydrogel material.
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