This dynamic, multidisciplinary project involves developing a facile technique to fabricate polymer hydrogels incorporated with Fe3O4 magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) for controlled drug delivery applications. The overall goal is to develop a new drug delivery platform, for efficient, safe and less painful treatment of external wounds. These gels are biocompatibleand can be actuated via an external magnetic field. The porosity and mechanical properties of the gels can be readily customized. Various drug molecules can be mixed into the polymer-MNP solution, prior to gel formation, to generate gel patches infused with known drug quantities. They can be actuated with external magnetic fields to release drugs in a controlled manner. The amount of drug released can be controlled by customizing the physicochemical properties of the gels by varying either the polymer or MNP concentrations, and by layering the gels. Two techniques are proposed to trigger & control drug-release: 1) Hydrogen bonding between citrate coated Fe3O4 MNPs and model drug, 2) Drugs and MNPs loaded onto vesicles such as liposomes.
The chemical and mechanical properties of the magnetic gels will be tailored to accomplish stability and robustness. The customizable properties together with biocompatibility will allow these materials to be used as wearable devices, capable of drug-release, for both external and sub-epidermal applications. The magnetic component renders remote control actuation as well as the possibility to be activated via hyperthermia. Such a platform can potentially lead to significant improvements in targeted drug delivery, with minimally invasive procedures. Experiments will also be directed to study the heat transfer mechanisms within various shapes of the cryogels, in order to build a customizable platform for precisely tuneable drug delivery. The impact of magnetic fields on cell viability and proliferation will also be explored.
The research will be supervised by a multidisciplinary team with expertise in Organic, Inorganic, Materials & Nano Chemistry, and aims to create interdisciplinary links for highly impactful research, targeting healthcare applications. External collaborations include experts in the fields of Chemical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at University College London.