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Compartmented Gel Capsule Developed for Multi-Drug Delivery

Beakers and molecule model (


U.S. and Chinese researchers have designed a multiple-compartment gel capsule that could simultaneously deliver drugs of different types. A description of their research is published online in the journal Macromolecular Rapid Communications (paid subscription required).

L. Andrew Lyon, a chemistry professor at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and Xiaobo Hu, a former visiting scholar at Georgia Tech and now at South China University of Technology, created the hydrogel capsules, which measure less than one micron (one millionth of a meter) across.

The capsules are hollow except for polymer chains tethered to the interior of the shell. This structure offers spatially-segregated compartments that make it a good delivery mechanism where patients need multiple-drug encapsulation or variable release strategies.

The microcapsules could simultaneously deliver distinct drugs by filling the core of the capsule with water-soluble drugs and trapping hydrophobic drugs separately in nanoparticles assembled from the polymer chains. To create a dissolvable core, they formed polymer chains from the particles without a cross-linking agent that normally bonds the chains. This step provides a collection of polymer chains with temperature-dependent stability.

In the next step, Lyon and Hu added a cross-linking agent to a polymer that creates a shell around the aggregated polymer chains. The researchers conducted this step to allow the core’s polymer chains that interact with the shell during synthesis to become grafted to the interior of the shell; see drawing below.

Delivery of multiple drugs in a single capsule can make it possible to gain synergistic effects from the drugs, suppress drug resistances, and provide the ability to tune relative dosages of the drugs. As these microcapsules develop, they could be designed to allow simultaneous delivery of distinct classes of drugs for the treatment of diseases like cancer, which is often treated using chemotherapy with drug combinations.

Microgel schematic semi-hollow microgel capsules (L. Andrew Lyon, Georgia Tech)

Schematic drawing of the process to build semi-hollow microgel capsules (L. Andrew Lyon, Georgia Tech)

Read more: Organic Nanoparticle in Development for Cancer Drug Delivery

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