Machine Design

Next for your medicine cabinet: Tiny plastic particles

Microscopic plastic spheres that can be inhaled may replace injections as a method of taking drugs.

This, according to Justin Pace, a Johns Hopkins University researcher. Inside the lungs, the particles should dissolve harmlessly, releasing the medicine at a steady pace.

A new type of synthesized porous polymer can release drugs in an environment resembling the deep lungs. The components used to create these plastic microspheres are materials already FDA-approved for other medical applications. Thus, it's likely the new polymeric form will pose no health hazards to humans. The particles are coated with a special surfactant native to the lungs. The surfactant fools the body into thinking the particles belong in the lungs, warding off an immune response.

The inhaled particles are about a one-tenth the diameter of a human hair. This technique may also prove useful in delivering toxic cancer-fighting drugs only to affected cells.

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