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Beyond patches and pills: the remarkable future of drug delivery

s and cardiovascular stints that can be placed through tiny incisions and then expand to their proper shape.

An insulin pill -- "We can take a pill to treat headaches; why can't we take a pill to treat diabetes?" asks Nicholas Peppas, Ph.D., formerly of Purdue University, now with the University of Texas. The reason is that insulin is a large protein molecule that gets digested in the stomach. Researchers, however, are creating a pill that survives the stomach's acids and carries insulin safely to the bloodstream. At least 11 companies are working on developing such a pill right now. Peppas is also developing a pill for the release of calcitonin to treat osteoporosis.

Pharmacy on a chip -- Having trouble remembering to take your medicine? Langer and others are developing a microchip that can be implanted under the skin to deliver drugs on cue. The chip has tiny reservoirs that can hold different types of medicine as well as varying doses of the same medicine. It can be programmed to release drugs at specific time intervals, and it could also change the way we think about medical recording. "Every time you take a drug, it could actually transmit that information from the chip to the computer at your house, to the doctor's office or hospital," Langer says.

Self-destructing sensors -- Instead of simply treating diseases, drug delivery researchers hope to devise ways to prevent them before they start. To this end, they are developing nanoparticle sensors -- tiny particles on the order of a single atom that will recognize compounds, such as glucose and cholesterol, whose overproduction may signal disease. The particles will then trigger a mechanism that tells a system (like the pharmacy on a chip) to release another compound to deal with the chemical imbalance. These nanoparticles are biodegradable, and they will self-destruct after two or three days.

Ultra-easy ultrasound -- Remember "Star Trek," when the ship'
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Contact: Beverly Hassell
b_hassell@acs.org
202-872-4065
American Chemical Society
25-Nov-2002


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