Medical inovations: Sound waves to power drug delivery

Now researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne have shown how high frequency sound waves could revolutionise the field of ultrasound driven chemistry

Published: 28th November 2020 11:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th November 2020 11:37 AM   |  A+A-

The patented nebulisation technology could deliver life-saving drugs and vaccines by inhalation, rather than through injections

The patented nebulisation technology could deliver life-saving drugs and vaccines by inhalation, rather than through injections. (Representational Image | AP)

By Express News Service

Australian scientists have successfully demonstrated how high-frequency sound waves can be used to build new materials, make smart nanoparticles and even deliver drugs to the lungs for painless, needle-free vaccinations. 

The New Indian Express takes a look:

POWERING CHEMISTRY WITH SOUND

  • Researchers generated highfrequency sound waves on a microchip to precisely manipulate fluids or materials
  • ​At these low frequencies, sonochemical reactions are driven by the violent implosion of air bubbles
  • This process, known as cavitation, results in huge pressures and ultra-high temperatures — like a tiny and extremely localised pressure cooker

HIGH FREQUENCY

  • Now researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne have shown how high frequency sound waves could revolutionise the field of ultrasound driven chemistry
  • The study published in Advanced Science reveals the bizarre effects of these sound waves on materials and cells, such as molecules that seem to spontaneously order themselves after being hit with the sonic equivalent of a semi-trailer


LOW FREQUENCY

  • Sound waves have been part of science and medicine for decades 
  • 1942: Ultrasound first used for clinical imaging
  • 1980s: Ultrasound used for driving chemical reactions
  • However, the technologies have always relied on low frequencies
  • 10 kHz: Ultrasound has long been used at low frequencies (around 10 kHz to 3 MHz) to drive chemical reactions

WHAT IF FREQUENCY WAS PUMPED UP?

  • When high frequency sound waves were transmitted into various materials and cells, researchers saw behaviour that had never been observed with low-frequency ultrasound
  • The self-ordering molecules seem to orient themselves in the crystal along the direction of the sound waves 
  • The sound wavelengths involved can be over 1,00,000 times larger than an individual molecule

ADVANTAGES

While low-frequency cavitation can often destroy molecules and cells, they remain mostly intact under the high-frequency sound waves. This makes them gentle enough to use in biomedical devices to manipulate biomolecules and cells without affecting their integrity

RMIT UNIVERSITY

The ‘Respite’ nebuliser uses high-frequency sound waves to deliver drugs to the lungs

Leslie Yeo, RMIT University says "When we couple high-frequency sound waves into fluids, materials and cells, the effects are extraordinary. We’ve harnessed the power of these sound waves to develop innovative biomedical technologies and to synthesise advanced materials."

ADVANCED NEBULISER

  • The researchers developed a drug delivery device that can precisely deliver large molecules such as DNA and antibodies, unlike existing nebulisers
  • This opens the potential for painless, needle-free vaccinations and treatments
  • The nebuliser uses highfrequency sound waves to excite the surface of the fluid or drug, generating a fine mist that can deliver larger biological molecules directly to the lungs
  • The nebuliser technology can also be used to encapsulate a drug in protective polymer nanoparticles, in a one-step process bringing together nanomanufacturing and drug delivery
  • In addition, the researchers have shown irradiating cells with the high-frequency sound waves allows therapeutic molecules to be inserted into the cells without damage, a technique that can be used in emerging cell-based therapies

APPLICATIONS OF THE TECHNOLOGY:

DRUG DELIVERY TO THE LUNGS

The patented nebulisation technology could deliver life-saving drugs and vaccines by inhalation, rather than through injections

DRUG-PROTECTING NANOPARTICLES

Encapsulating drugs in special nano-coatings to protect them from deterioration, control their release over time and ensure they precisely target the right places in the body like tumours or infections

BREAKTHROUGH SMART MATERIALS

Sustainable production of super-porous nanomaterials that can be used to store, separate, release, protect almost anything

NANO-MANUFACTURING 2D MATERIALS

Rapid exfoliation of atomically-thin quantum dots and nanosheets


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