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Nanomaterials in the Pharma–Industry How Advanced Thin-film Technique Provides for a Long-lasting Medication

Author / Editor: Massachusetts Institute of Technology / Sebastian Gerstl

Nanoscale, biodegradable drug-delivery method could provide a year or more of steady doses, siginifcantly improving the treatment of patients suffering from chronic pain.

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MIT Professor Paula Hammond and Bryan Hsu PhD' 14 have developed a nanoscale film that can be used to deliver medication, either directly through injections, or by coating implantable medical devices
MIT Professor Paula Hammond and Bryan Hsu PhD' 14 have developed a nanoscale film that can be used to deliver medication, either directly through injections, or by coating implantable medical devices
(© 2014 Dominick Reuter)

About one in four older adults fall ill with chronic pain. Many of those
people take medication, usually as pills. But this is not an ideal way of treating pain: Patients must take medicine
frequently, and can suffer side effects, since the contents of pills spread through the bloodstream to the whole body.

Now researchers at MIT have refined a technique that could enable pain medication and other drugs to be released directly to specific parts of the body - and in steady
doses over a period of up to 14 months. The method uses biodegradable, nanoscale “thin films” laden with drug molecules that are absorbed into the body in an incremental process.

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“It’s been hard to develop something that releases [medication] for more than a couple of months,” says Paula Hammond, the David H. Koch Professor in Engineering at MIT, and a co-author of a new paper on the advance. “Now we’re looking at a way of creating an extremely thin film or coating that’s very dense with a drug, and yet releases at a
constant rate for very long time periods.”

In a paper the researchers describe the method used in the new drug-delivery
system, which significantly exceeds the
release duration achieved by most commercial controlled-release biodegradable films.

“You can potentially implant it and release the drug for more than a year without having to go in and do anything about it,” says Dr. Bryan Hsu, who helped develop the project as a doctoral student in Hammond’s lab. “You don’t have to go recover it. Normally to get long-term drug release, you need a
reservoir or device, something that can hold back the drug. And it’s typically non-
degradable. It will release slowly, but it will either sit there and you have this foreign
object retained in the body, or you have to go recover it.”

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