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

Jan 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 The balloon could then be deflated and withdrawn.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: Carbon nanoballs can greatly contribute to sustainable energy supply

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

Ions control shape of nanofibers grown on clear substrate

Aug 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 ...

New technique scales up nanofiber production

Aug 10, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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.

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 ...

Recommended for you

Researchers use oxides to flip graphene conductivity

Jan 26, 2015

Graphene, a one-atom thick lattice of carbon atoms, is often touted as a revolutionary material that will take the place of silicon at the heart of electronics. The unmatched speed at which it can move electrons, ...

Researchers make magnetic graphene

Jan 26, 2015

Graphene, a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, has many desirable properties. Magnetism alas is not one of them. Magnetism can be induced in graphene by doping it with magnetic ...

The latest fashion: Graphene edges can be tailor-made

Jan 23, 2015

Theoretical physicists at Rice University are living on the edge as they study the astounding properties of graphene. In a new study, they figure out how researchers can fracture graphene nanoribbons to get ...

Nanotechnology changes behavior of materials

Jan 23, 2015

One of the reasons solar cells are not used more widely is cost—the materials used to make them most efficient are expensive. Engineers are exploring ways to print solar cells from inks, but the devices ...

Gold 'nano-drills'

Jan 22, 2015

Spherical gold particles are able to 'drill' a nano-diameter tunnel in ceramic material when heated. This is an easy and attractive way to equip chips with nanopores for DNA analysis, for example. Nanotechnologists ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

packrat
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.