Researchers create flexible, nanoscale 'bed of nails' for possible drug delivery

January 15, 2013
This image shows carbon nanofiber "needles" embedded in an elastic silicone membrane. Credit: Anatoli Melechko, North Carolina State University

Researchers at North Carolina State University have come up with a technique to embed needle-like carbon nanofibers in an elastic membrane, creating a flexible "bed of nails" on the nanoscale that opens the door to development of new drug-delivery systems.

The research community is interested in finding new ways to deliver precise doses of drugs to specific targets, such as regions of the brain. One idea is to create balloons embedded with nanoscale spikes that are coated with the relevant drug. Theoretically, the deflated balloon could be inserted into the target area and then inflated, allowing the spikes on the balloon's surface to pierce the surrounding cell walls and deliver the drug. The balloon could then be deflated and withdrawn.

But to test this concept, researchers first needed to develop an that is embedded with these aligned, nanoscale needles. That's where the NC State research team came in.

"We have now developed a way of embedding in an elastic silicone membrane and ensuring that the nanofibers are both perpendicular to the membrane's surface and sturdy enough to impale cells," says Dr. Anatoli Melechko, an associate professor of at NC State and co-author of a paper on the work.

The researchers first "grew" the nanofibers on an aluminum bed, or substrate. They then added a drop of liquid . The polymer, nanofibers and substrate were then spun, so that centrifugal force spread the in a thin layer between the nanofibers – allowing the nanofibers to stick out above the surface. The polymer was then "cured," turning the liquid polymer into a solid, . Researchers then dissolved the aluminum substrate, leaving the membrane embedded with the carbon nanofibers "needles."

"This technique is relatively easy and inexpensive," says Melechko, "so we are hoping this development will facilitate new research on targeted drug-delivery methods."

Explore further: Study finds more efficient means of creating, arranging carbon nanofibers

More information: The paper, "Transfer of Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanofibers to Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) while Maintaining their Alignment and Impalefection Functionality," is published online in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Related Stories

Researchers create nanopatch for the heart

May 19, 2011

When you suffer a heart attack, a part of your heart dies. Nerve cells in the heart's wall and a special class of cells that spontaneously expand and contract – keeping the heart beating in perfect synchronicity – ...

New technique scales up nanofiber production

August 10, 2011

( -- A new spin on an old technology will give scientists and manufacturers the ability to significantly increase their production of nanofibers, according to researchers at North Carolina State University.

Ions control shape of nanofibers grown on clear substrate

August 16, 2011

Researchers from North Carolina State University have found a new way to develop straight carbon nanofibers on a transparent substrate. Growing such nanofiber coatings is important for use in novel biomedical research tools, ...

Researchers devise new means for creating elastic conductors

January 24, 2012

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new method for creating elastic conductors made of carbon nanotubes, which will contribute to large-scale production of the material for use in a new generation ...

Recommended for you

Physicists develop new technique to fathom 'smart' materials

November 26, 2015

Physicists from the FOM Foundation and Leiden University have found a way to better understand the properties of manmade 'smart' materials. Their method reveals how stacked layers in such a material work together to bring ...

Mathematicians identify limits to heat flow at the nanoscale

November 24, 2015

How much heat can two bodies exchange without touching? For over a century, scientists have been able to answer this question for virtually any pair of objects in the macroscopic world, from the rate at which a campfire can ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 15, 2013
What stops those 'needles' from breaking off in the cell walls when the little balloon is deflated again?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.