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New family of biodegradable polymers shows promise for intracellular drug delivery

evelopment and potential applications of polyketals on March 27 at the 231st American Chemical Society National Meeting in Atlanta. His collaborators are Emory University immunologist Bali Pulendran, University of Rochester physician Robert Pierce, and Georgia Tech graduate students Michael Heffernan and Stephen Yang. Their research -- under way for the past two and a half years -- is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Development of the polymer was a surprisingly straightforward process, Murthy said. "There is a reaction that is well known in synthetic organic chemistry called the acetal exchange reaction," he explained. "We can change this reaction a little bit and use it to make these polymers. It's normally a reaction used to protect alcohols, but when you make it react with a molecule with two alcohols, it makes this polymer."

Because this chemical process is a simple one, it is feasible for production of the polymer on an industrial scale, potentially making it widely available, Murthy said.

"We have a lot of flexibility in terms of the types of alcohols we incorporate into the polymer," he added. "We can tailor the polymer's hydrolysis rates and mechanical properties, which would broaden its medical applications. For example, in some cases you want drug delivery faster than others. With acute liver failure, you want drug release in one to two days, whereas with arthritis, you want release over one to two months."

In addition to its simple synthesis, another advantage of polyketals is their degradation process, which generates membrane-permeable products, Murthy said.

"The problem with using polyesters as drug delivery vehicles is that most of the illnesses being treated are chronic diseases requiring weekly injections, yet polyesters take months to degrade," he noted. "Polyketals hydrolyze in a week, diffuse out of the cell and are then excreted outside of the cell."

Researchers
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Contact: Jane Sanders
jane.sanders@edi.gatech.edu
404-894-2214
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
27-Mar-2006


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