Normally, for long-term drug release, you would need to insert a reservoir or device for holding the drug back, and this is usually something non-degradable, that has to be retrieved when the dose is exhausted.
But the team thinks with their technique, which uses biodegradable film, you could implant it and it would release the drug for about a year, and you would not have to go in and retrieve it - it would simply biodegrade.
In their paper, the developers describe how the duration of controlled-release is significantly longer with their refined technique than that achieved by most commercially available biodegradable products.
To get the technique right, the team had to tackle a difficult problem in localized drug delivery: how to ensure that the process through which the drug is released occurs at the right pace.
They had to come up with a mechanism that limits the rate of hydrolysis - the process where water in the body breaks down the bonds that hold the drug in place and releases it into the target tissue.
Too much hydrolysis would release too much drug too quickly. The mechanism needs to allow the drug to be released in steady increments.
The solution they developed uses a "layer-by-layer"
In their paper, they describe how they tested the idea using diclofenac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that is often prescribed for osteoarthritis and other pain or inflammatory conditions.
They bound the NSAID to thin layers of poly-L-glutamic acid, which comprises an amino acid that is absorbed in the body, and two other organic compounds.
In lab tests, the developers found the diclofenac was steadily released over 14 months, "far exceeding the duration noted in most previous reports, especially those from biodegradable matrices," they note.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the method in preserving drug potency, the developers tested how well the diclofenac released from the thin film blocked the activity of an enzyme that is key to inflammation - cyclooxygenase of COX.
They note that the diclofenac remained active after release, producing "substantial COX inhibition at a similar level" to pills. This showed the method of attaching and releasing the drug had not damaged it.
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