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New Biomaterial Has 'Star' Power

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.--The next star in drug delivery and medical technology may be a new material developed by Purdue University researchers.

Kelley Keys, a chemical engineering graduate student, has made new gels from a material called a star polymer. The gels' potential applications include removing substances such as cholesterol from the blood and delivering high concentrations of drugs to specific areas in the body, such as tumors.

Keys, a Carmel, Ind., native, presented her research results Wednesday (6/24) at a meeting of the Controlled Release Society in Las Vegas.

Most polymers are large molecules made up of smaller molecules linked together in a chain, but a star polymer has a central core with many arms radiating out from it. The end of each arm can be very chemically reactive, and it can bind with materials such as cells, drugs, proteins and antibodies.

"The large number of arms in a very small volume would make these star polymers very useful in biological and pharmaceutical applications, such as delivering a high concentration of drugs throughout the body or to a specific target," Keys says.

The star polymer gels Keys developed are made from the polymer polyethylene glycol, or PEG, a nontoxic, noncarcinogenic substance used in many biomedical applications. A few of the up to 70-some arms on each star molecule are used to bind them together to form the gel, leaving the majority of the arms free to react. The average diameter of an individual PEG star molecule is less than 50 nanometers, 100 times smaller than a red blood cell.

An important new property of some of these gels is that they can recognize and remember specific substances through a process called molecular imprinting, a technique developed by other researchers over the past five years.

"During the preparation of the star polymer gels, we add molecules of a particular drug or protein," explains Nicholas Pepp
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Contact: Amanda Siegfried
amanda_siegfried@uns.purdue.edu
765-494-4709
Purdue University
24-Jun-1998


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