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HOME > PAST ISSUE > March-April 2014 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

Engineered Molecules for Smarter Medicines

Specially designed polymers can dodge the body’s immune defenses to deliver vital medicine where it is needed most.

Darlene K. Taylor, Uddhav Balami

A Path to Smarter Medicine

After taking several decades to come into widespread use, smart materials are now becoming an important tool in biomedicine and biotechnology. Combining polymers with other functional chemistries can lead to an almost unlimited variety of smart materials. In the near future, smart polymers will play a role in keeping track of changes in acidity in the kidneys to monitor homeostasis; taking their cue from enzymes in the blood vessels to repair embolisms; deploying biochemical compounds onsite to fix misshapen proteins in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s; forming chemical and biochemical stimuli to regulate blood components such as glucose; and blocking chemical signals that can trigger melanoma.

Once a mere theoretical possibility, smart materials that respond to individual triggers like light and temperature are now a real possibility. Such materials are of immense interest to scientists searching for new ways to treat disease and bypass the body’s cunning, but often counterproductive, defenses.








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