Dr Georgina Such imagines a miniscule capsule designed like a set of Russian babushka dolls.
The capsule is designed to sneak through the blood stream untouched.
When it finds its target—a cancer cell—it passes into the cell, sheds a layer, finds the part of the cellular machinery it needs to attack, sheds another layer; and then releases its cargo of drugs, destroying the cancer cell and only the cancer cell.
Creating such a capsule may take decades, but Georgina and her colleagues at the University of Melbourne have already developed several materials which have the potential to do the job.
Now, with the help of a 2011 $20,000 L’Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship she has begun to push her research further.
So far, Georgina has combined two different techniques—layer-by-layer assembly and click chemistry—to produce the required type of “intelligent” materials that can deliver cancer drugs only to unhealthy cells within the body.
Using a combination of these techniques she can create her “babushka doll” capsules—with each coating tailored to a particular purpose which, when fulfilled, is stripped away to reveal the next layer.
Click chemistry is important because it is an efficient bonding technique which allows her to build “the smarts”— chemical ingredients with highly specific properties—into the polymer capsule coatings.
Already she has, for example, developed “low fouling” capsules, coated, like a stealth bomber, with materials that allow them to pass undetected through the body’s immune surveillance systems.
And her L’Oréal Fellowship will be directed towards solving the problem of how to ensure the drug carried by the smart capsule is most effective once it is taken into a target cell.
Photo: Georgina Such is working on smart capsules could change the way we deliver drugs.
Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au
The University of Melbourne, Georgina Such, firstname.lastname@example.org, loreal.scienceinpublic.com.au/fellows/georgina-such