And you thought that regular pill bottles were hard to open ... a new
overdose-proof medication dispenser developed by a team of mechanical
engineering students at Johns Hopkins University can't be opened even
with the help of a hammer or drill. It does, however, deliver the proper
dosage at the proper time, as long as the patient uses its built-in
Scientists are increasingly looking at using medication-filled microspheres for targeted drug delivery within the human body. Silicone would
be a particularly good building material for such spheres, as it's
biocompatible, waterproof, and chemically stable. Unfortunately, using
traditional methods, it can't be made into small enough spheres. Now,
however, a new process has allowed for the creation of silicone
microspheres that are about one one-hundredth the size of any previously
While there are a large number of approved cancer treatments, identifying which drugs are best suited to individual patients is extremely difficult for doctors. A team of MIT researchers has developed a small, implantable device that aims to change this by allowing scientists to measure the effectiveness of different drugs, on a patient-by-patient basis.
There are already beverage cans that contain chemically-activated chilling modules
. Now, three students from Houston's Rice University are working at applying the same principle to hypodermic needles. Instead of keeping the medication in the syringe cool, however, the idea is that a special needle cap could be used to first chill and numb the patient's skin, making the subsequent injection relatively painless.
As anyone who has ever used medicinal eyedrops will know, it's hard to get the things into your own eye. Soon, however, they could be replaced by tiny drug-containing polymer "nanowafers" that are applied to the eye like a contact lens. Those wafers would proceed to gradually dissolve, releasing medication throughout the day.
As if soap bubbles don't spread enough happiness on their own, scientists have discovered a way of coating them in biomolecules with a view to treating viruses, cancer and other diseases. The technology has been developed at the University of Maryland, where researchers devised a method of tricking the body into mistaking the bubbles for harmful cells, triggering an immune response and opening up new possibilities in the delivery of drugs and vaccines.
When we eat a meal, our body detects that we've consumed calories and responds by burning fat in order to make room for them. The catch for the weight-conscious is that if we don't burn off those newly-arrived calories, they just end up being stored as more fat. For people with metabolic disorders or other conditions, exercise just isn't enough to keep that from happening. Soon, however, a newly-developed drug could help. It triggers the body's "burning fat to make space for calories" response, even when the patient hasn't eaten anything.
Excessive exposure to sunlight is the leading cause of skin deterioration, causing it to age prematurely. We need some exposure, however, in order to synthesize vitamin D – plus who wants to stay in the shade all the time? Using a good sunscreen definitely helps, although scientists from the University of British Columbia are taking things a step farther – they're developing a drug that could ultimately prevent the sunlight-related aging of skin.
The skin is the body's first line of defense against infection. And when this barrier is broken, or an internal organ is ruptured, it is the process of coagulation, or clotting, which relies largely on blood cells called platelets, that seals the breach and stems the flow of blood. Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have now synthesized nanoparticles that mimic the form and function of platelets, but can do more than just accelerate the body's natural healing processes.
When a medication enters the bloodstream, it ends up being concentrated in the liver – after all, one of the organ's main functions is to cleanse the blood. This means that if a drug is going to have an adverse effect on any part of the body, chances are it will be the liver. It would seem to follow, therefore, that if a pharmaceutical company wanted to test the safety of its products, it would be nice to have some miniature human livers on which to experiment – which is just what San Diego-based biotech firm Organovo
is about to start selling.