A new polymeric material is specifically designed to break down into small fragments in response to very low levels of near infrared (NRI) irradiation, enabling non-invasive medical and biological applications that disassemble in a highly controlled fashion. "The material was also shown to be well-tolerated in cells before and after irradiation," noted Adah Almutairi, an assistant professor at the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and director of the Laboratory of Bioresponsive Materials at UC San Diego. "We think there is great potential for use in human patients, allowing previously inaccessible targets sites to be reached for both treatment and diagnosis."
The NIR light can penetrate up to 10 cm into tissue with less damage, absorption and scattering than visible light, and can be remotely applied with high spatial and temporal precision, according to the research. Almutairi notes that most other light-degradable materials that have been developed to date can be difficult to clear from the body, and only a handful of organic materials respond to high-power NIR light. "Until now, none was able to respond to low-level, thus safer, NIR light, which causes less photodamage to tissue and cells," Almutairi said.
The UC San Diego researchers are undertaking further studies to improve the sensitivity of these polymeric materials to NIR, currently investigating several synthetic and engineering strategies to improve design of such biomaterials.
"This material and future refined versions of it have broad potential for clinical applications and use in basic biology research," Jessica Moore, manager and the Center for Excellence in Nanomedicine at UCSD told PlasticsToday, "as it would allow clinicians and researchers a noninvasive means of finely controlling the timing and location of delivery of drugs or other biologically active agents in patients or animal models."
Moore said the first clinical problem the lab is investigating is a drug depot for macular degeneration therapy to avoid repeated ocular injections. Initial laboratory applications involve delivery of specific factors to study heart development.