Athlone IT smart drug tech could reduce need for surgery

2 Aug 2018

From left: Shane Halligan, Dr Declan Devine and Maurice Dalton. Image: Athlone IT

Two researchers from Athlone IT have unveiled new smart drug delivery systems that could make some surgeries a thing of the past.

Sometimes, you can find that two avenues of research end up at the same location. In this instance, two researchers from Athlone Institute of Technology’s Materials Research Institute (MRI) have separately found ways to create smart drug delivery systems designed to pinpoint physiological diseases such as cancer.

Both Maurice Dalton and Shane Halligan have been investigating the use of polymer technology for intelligent drug release and other biomedical applications in conjunction with Stanford University and University College Dublin’s Conway Institute.

In Dalton’s research, he used acetic acid and a temperature-sensitive nanogel capable of being tailored to lower the critical core temperature of physiological conditions.

“Mutated oncogenes – the genes that can cause the growth of cancer – run a different temperature to normal, healthy cells,” explained Dalton.

“By tailoring the temperature of the drug delivery, we can pinpoint the cancerous cells without affecting the surrounding healthy tissue.”

Reduces the need for surgery

Meanwhile, Halligan’s approach investigated the benefits of subdermal implants for targeted drug delivery.

By synthesising polymers with thermosensitive capabilities, Halligan hopes to minimise the need for invasive surgery.

“Initially, our injectable material is at room temperature but when we inject it into the body at the site of treatment, it turns into a solid gel,” Halligan said.

“This functionality reduces the need for surgery and acts as a targeted drug release mechanism.”

While their work remains in the early stages, the two are confident that it could bring significant potential to biomedicine.

For their achievements, the pair walked away with two commendations at the recent MRI Scientific Paper awards. While Dalton picked up the prize for Best First Scientific Publication by an MRI researcher in 2017, Halligan was awarded the Best Scientific Publication by an MRI researcher for the same year.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic