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Chemical Researcher Maxwell Robb Describe New Polymer Releases Molecular Payload in Response to Force

Caltech scientists have developed a brand new kind of polymer that could carry a chemical payload as part of its molecular structure and release it in response to mechanical pressure. The chemical system they’ve developed might one day be used to create medical implants that may release medicine into the body when triggered by something like ultrasound waves.

In a new study published in the September 13 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Maxwell Robb and the team describe the polymer they’ve synthesized and the reaction that makes the payload system possible.

The new material consists of a set of polymer chains bonded to the payload system, making a mechanically sensitive unit known as a mechanophore. A so-called cascade reaction ejects the payload from the polymer. In easy terms, the pressure applied to the polymer causes weak bonds in the mechanophore to break, spitting out a delicate intermediate molecule that promptly breaks down to release the attached payload.

In their study, the authors reveal the release of a coumarin dye, an organic molecule with helpful properties, however, they say the polymer could be altered to release numerous molecules, including those with therapeutic qualities.

A material that may release medication on command could be used to offer more exact remedy of some medical conditions; for example, a cancer therapy may ship a drug on to the intended target.

The system Robb and his colleagues have developed may be tweaked for different purposes. He says that it’s possible to create a polymer that depolymerizes—or utterly breaks down into small particles—when subjected to stress. Alternatively, a polymer might be tailored to release a reporter molecule to sign locations in a structure that is under pressure and will result in a structural failure.

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