A factory built of gel does not sound very durable. But the new type of micro-factories invented by researchers at Aarhus University do not have to last.
They will actually be placed inside a patient's body exactly where the medicine is required and they will gradually dissolve and disappear in the patient's urine once their mission is accomplished.
The prospects are so enormous that Associate Professor of Chemistry Alexander Zelikin, Aarhus University, has just been granted EUR 2 million to boost research and development in this field. The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded him an ERC Consolidator Grant.
Very advanced gel
The tiny factories consist of hydrogel, which is fundamentally a mixture of water and polymers with characteristics similar to gelatine. In this case we deal with some advanced variants of hydrogels: They must simultaneously be able to function as material for the small factories and contain the enzymes needed to produce medicine while the raw material is arriving at the factories.
There is basically nothing new in allowing enzymes to be in charge of the medical production - plenty of drugs are made of inactive substances which are not converted into active drugs until the liver or enzymes elsewhere in the body begins to break them down. They are called prodrugs.
An ordinary prodrug is, for example acetylsalicylic acid, which is the main ingredient in the common types of pain-relieving drug. They will not work until your liver has converted them into alicylic acid.
"The problem with this type of prodrugs is, however, that after the conversion they are typically sent into the blood in the intire body, so that only a fraction reaches the place which hurts. This problem can be solved in the process by creating prodrugs, which can only be transformed by specific enzymes - and then placing these enzymes in th eparticular part of the body which needs the drug
|Contact: Alexander Zelikin|