Tiny magnetic implant enables new drug delivery method

UBC researchers have developed a new method of drug delivery, the first of its kind in Canada. The new method makes use a magnetic drug implant, offering an alternative for patients struggling with various pills or intravenous injections.

Size of the magnetic implant compared to the Canadian one-dollar coin. (Photo courtesy of: UBC)

The device measures just six millimetres in diameter and is made of a silicone sponge with magnetic carbonyl iron particles encapsulated in a round polymer layer.

The drug is delivered into the device and then surgically implanted in the area being treated.

A magnet is passed over the patient’s skin activating the device by deforming the sponge and resulting in the release of the drug into the surrounding tissue through a tiny opening.

“Drug implants can be safe and effective for treating many conditions, and magnetically controlled implants are particularly interesting because you can adjust the dose after implantation by using different magnet strengths. Many other implants lack that feature,” said study author Ali Shademani, a PhD student in the biomedical engineering program at UBC.

Ali Shademani and co-author Hongbin Zhang. (Photo courtesy of: UBC)

Co-author John K. Jackson, a research scientist at UBC’s faculty of pharmaceutical sciences said actively controlling drug delivery plays a significant role for patients suffering from diabetes where the required timing and dosage of insulin varies from patient to patient.

“This device lets you release the actual dose that the patient needs when they need it, and it’s sufficiently easy to use that patients could administer their own medication one day without having to go to a hospital,” said Jackson.

Researchers used the prostate cancer drug docetaxel to test their device on animal tissue in the lab. They found the technique was effective in administering the drug on demand even after repeated use. The effect of the drug on cancer cells was comparable to that of freshly delivered docetaxel, proving that the drugs stored in the device stay effective.

Mu Chiao, Shademani’s supervisor and a professor of mechanical engineering at UBC, said the team is working on refining the device and narrowing down the conditions for its use.

“This could one day be used for administering painkillers, hormones, chemotherapy drugs and other treatments for a wide range of health conditions. In the next few years we hope to be able to test it for long-term use and for viability in living models,” said Chiao.

“Active regulation of on-demand drug delivery by magnetically triggerable microspouters” was recently published online in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. Click here to download a copy.