Nov. 1 (UPI) -- University of New South Wales researchers have developed a method to control polymer molecule shapes that can turn into effective drug delivery systems.
Researchers used polymer molecules containing a water-soluble portion and a non-water soluble portion that can self-assemble into round, hollow polymersomes, which make up a powerful new way to deliver drugs to specific targets in the body.
Polymersomes are becoming more commonly used tools to deliver drugs to specific parts of the body because of their stability, chemical versatility and ease of alteration on the surface of molecules.
"Our breakthrough means we can predictably make smart polymers that shift their shape according to the different conditions around them to form tiny ellipsoidal or tubular structures that can encapsulate drugs," Pall Thordarson of the UNSW School of Chemistry, said in a news release.
"We have preliminary evidence that these more natural-shaped plastic nanoparticles enter tumor cells more easily than spherical ones."
The new chemical design works by adding a non-water soluble perylene polymer group to the membrane of the polymersome so the size and shape can be changed by adjusting the amount of water in the solvent.
"Very little in nature is perfectly spherical," Thordarson said. "Most biological structures like cells, bacteria and viruses come in a variety of shapes including tubes, rods, and squashed spheres, or ellipsoids. But it has proved very difficult for scientists to synthesis particles that are not perfectly round."
The study was published today in Nature Communications.