IEM Member Adah Almutairi’s lab discovers new light-triggered release mechanism

April 5, 2014

Researchers in the Center for Nanomedicine and Engineering (CNME) have introduced a new means of using light to control the activity of molecules that relies on the ability of water to absorb energy at a particular wavelength. This discovery represents a major innovation because only a handful of strategies for light-triggered release from nanoparticles have been reported. The mechanism, described in an article published March 31 in ACS Nano, employs near-infrared (NIR) light from a low-power laser to heat pockets of water trapped within non-photo-responsive polymeric nanoparticles containing the molecule to be released (e.g. a drug or hormone). Water within the particles is preferentially heated because it exists in very small volumes; this heat is transferred to the polymer to soften it and induce diffusion of the molecule out of the particle. The key advantage of the mechanism is its compatibility with commercially available polymers, which could enable adoption by many biological laboratories. Further, the temperature changes involved are much smaller than those caused by photothermal heating of gold nanostructures, another common strategy for NIR-induced release, implying that the strategy may be less damaging to cells.

This research, in partnership with the King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology, was funded by a National Institutes of Health New Innovator Award (1 DP2 OD006499-01) and NIH grant R01AG032132. For more information, see the press release.