Freeze! Skoltech patent paves ‘icy’ way to better targeted drug delivery

Skoltech and Saratov State University researchers have been granted a new patent for their research in physical chemistry that could pave the way for efficient targeted drug delivery, a hot topic in medical technology. 

Sergei German, Marina Novoselova, Dmitry Gorin and Gleb Sukhorukov have found a novel approach to the controlled loading of inorganic nanoparticles and proteins into submicron- and micron-sized porous particles. This approach can potentially be used in contrast agents, drug delivery systems, and sensors. A paper about this discovery was first published in the journal Scientific Reports in 2018.

The researchers used multiple freezing and thawing cycles, a method that is familiar to anyone who has ever tried to purify contaminated water by freezing it. “Simply put, if we add the drug and the porous particle that we intend to use as carrier to water and then freeze it, the water will kind of push them towards each other,” says Gorin.



“Marina Novoselova and I were working on a completely different project and had to load some substances into particles. We tried everything, and, of course, nothing worked. Then I remembered that Dmitry Gorin, who had taught a course at my school, talked about this process, and I suggested using the displacement of impurities by growing crystals. I myself did not believe this was going to work,” says German, who came up with the idea.

Gorin notes that existing methods for creating therapeutic drug-loaded particles such as adsorption usually provide rather poor results (very few particles are loaded onto a carrier particle), whereas the new approach is three to five times more efficient and can be repeated several times to achieve the necessary load. It is also simple enough and does not require expensive equipment, making it interesting for pharmaceutical applications in areas such as immunotherapy and vaccine development.

The equipment that is needed for this method is now being developed and produced by a Skoltech startup, TetraQuant. “We are now working on a new version of our machine that does not require a large-scale refrigerator — in principle, this technology can be used in a basic kitchen. The patent protects our idea, and we are now working on its practical implementation,” Gorin says, listing composite materials and cosmetology as other potential industrial applications.


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