Birmingham Scientists develop MORPH to Control Size and Shape of Nanoparticles
For several decades researchers had been trying to find a better way to deliver therapeutics to the cells using nanoparticles. Nanoparticles are as small as proteins, hence makes it appropriate for the transport of drug molecules attached to them across the cell membrane and interact with biomolecules.
But only a few nanoparticle-based drugs were able to get approved and reach the clinic. One of the primary reasons for this was the challenges in controlling the shape and size of the nanoparticles. Besides, how these nanoparticles would affect the biomolecules in the body was not completely understood.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham and the University of Bath have published their new technique called MORPH to control the shape and size of nanoparticles in Nature Communications.
Dr. Tom Wilks, one of the authors of the study, explained that the researches till now have shown that changing the shape of nanoparticle from spherical to cylinder causes a substantial effect on how the nanoparticles interact with the body and how they are distributed. The ability to control the shape and size would help to design nanoparticles in desired shape and size suitable for a particular function.
Currently, scientists have to develop a bespoke chemical synthesis for each to produce nanoparticles in the desired shape, which can be a time-consuming, expensive, and laborious process.
MORPH developed by Birmingham scientists offers an extremely easy method for smoothening this process. The team began with a base polymer made nanoparticle, and added a second polymer in solution. The polymers are designed in such a way that the polymers want to bind to each other, so the second polymer is driven into the core of the nanoparticle, forcing it to expand. How much the second polymer is added determines the shape and size of the nanoparticle.
The precise design of the polymer and the control over how much second polymer is added gives the scientists high control over the size.
This technique is reproducible with other polymers and can be applied to any nanoparticles involving applications from photonics to fuel cells.
This is a significant innovation that would help scientists to effectively employ nanoparticles for a whole range of applications, including drug discovery. But there are few questions still left like how will the nanoparticles react when drug molecules are introduced and how the shape and size of nanoparticles can be optimized for different purposes.