Microscale gelatin mold can cook up drug-delivering particles

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The chefs at MIT's Langer Lab have cooked up another batch of possible drug-delivery devices. This time, they're in the form of a kind of microscale gelatin mold that can form layered microparticles of nearly any shape. They can also precisely place drugs into different compartments, making it suitable for controlled release, according to a release from MIT. It wasn't only Robert Langer, but also MIT's Ali Khademhosseini who came up with the innovation, which appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Halil Tekin, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science, invented the technology and was lead author of the paper.

Most drug-delivering particles are currently engineered using photolithography, which relies on ultraviolet light to transform liquid polymers into a solid gel. But that can only be done with a few materials and the UV light could hurt the cells. Another way is to fill a tiny mold with a liquid gel carrying drug molecules, then cool it until it sets into the desired shape. But this only creates one layer.

Khademhosseini and Langer first filled the mold with a liquid gel that contains one kind of drug, then after it hardened they heated the mold so the walls surrounding the solid gel shrunk, creating extra space for a second layer to be added.

"The method is quite creative," Michael Sefton, professor at the University of Toronto Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, who was not involved in the project, said in MIT's release. "It offers the opportunity to make multilayer microstructures. The next step is figuring out what you can do with these two-layer structures."

- read the full story at MIT News
- and the abstract in the Journal of the American Chemical Society

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Editor's Note: This article was changed to add the name of Halil Tekin as inventor of the technology.