New potential: These light-controlled plasters release active ingredients in a controlled manner

New potential: These light-controlled plasters release active ingredients in a controlled manner

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Intelligent plaster with light switch should revolutionize medication

Not every active ingredient is suitable to be taken orally or via a syringe. Our largest organ remains largely unused. The skin offers the largest permeable area to absorb active ingredients from medicines. Researchers from Switzerland are currently developing a new type of patch that releases active ingredients to the skin via integrated containers. This delivery is controlled by the light.

The smallest nano containers are integrated in the intelligent plaster, which can be filled with a wide variety of active ingredients. The active substances can be released in a targeted manner by light signals. This opens up completely new methods in drug therapy. The light-controlled patch is currently being developed by researchers from Empa and the University of Friborg. A thesis on this topic was recently published in the "Journal of the American Chemical Society".

Medicine that goes through the skin

Some active ingredients can already be applied well as patches over the skin, such as nicotine replacement, certain pain relievers or contraceptives. This repertoire could be greatly expanded with the new patch, as researchers from Empa in St. Gallen and the Adolphe Merkle Institute at the University of Friborg report. With the new technology, the dosage of active ingredients could be controlled exactly via light signals.

How does the new plaster system work?

In order to be able to precisely control the active substances in the patch, the research team has developed a molecular light switch that is inspired by nature. "Our light switch works on the principle of the retina in the human eye," explains Luciano Boesel from the Empa Laboratory for Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles in a press release on the study results. Like the natural dyes in the eye, these synthetic photochromes could also be activated by light. These switches were built into microscopic polymer nanospheres, which then release the content with the active ingredient via a light signal.

High-tech plasters

A certain wavelength of light causes a change in the structure of the integrated nanoreactors. As a result, the shell becomes permeable and the active ingredients contained can escape. At a different wavelength, this reaction comes to a standstill within seconds and the active ingredient is no longer released.

A portable medication reservoir

The new patch can serve as a portable medication reservoir that delivers active ingredients precisely whenever they are needed. "Light switches can be used for the entire spectrum between 450 and 700 nanometers in wavelength, that is, for colored light from blue to red," reports Boesel. This leaves scope for the controlled delivery of several drugs up to complex reaction cascades in just one patch.

Further optimization required

The team is currently working with the support of the National Fund and the National Center of Competence in Research for Bio-Inspired Materials to further optimize the light-sensitive patch. "First of all, we will examine the precisely controllable release of substances that are already approved for use through the skin, such as certain pain relievers," Boesel sums up. In the future, however, many more treatments with the plaster are conceivable. (vb)

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