Magnetic implant promises tailored drug delivery

Engineers from the University of British Columbia in Canada have developed a minute magnetic implant that can deliver customisable quantities of drugs over a sustained period.

(Images courtesy of UBC)

Described in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, the device measures just 6mm in diameter. It consists of a silicon sponge with magnetic carbonyl iron particles into which the drug is injected, surrounded by a polymer layer. Once the device has been inserted, drugs are released by passing a magnet over the skin, with stronger magnets deforming the sponge more and releasing higher doses.

“Drug implants can be safe and effective for treating many conditions,” said study author Ali Shademani, a biomedical engineering PhD student at UBC.

(Credit: UBC)

“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.”

The device was tested in the lab using the prostate cancer drug docetaxel on animal tissue. According to the researchers, the implant was able to repeatedly deliver the desired dose on demand, producing an effect on cancer cells comparable to that of freshly administered docetaxel. The team believes the device has a wide range of potential applications and is now working towards refining its operation.

“This could one day be used for administering painkillers, hormones, chemotherapy drugs and other treatments for a wide range of health conditions,” said Mu Chiao, Shademani’s supervisor and a professor of mechanical engineering at UBC.

“In the next few years we hope to be able to test it for long-term use and for viability in living models.”