Scientists have been using both Diamond Light Source and the ISIS neutron source to get a better understanding of an important group of materials that can help target the delivery of drugs to the right place in the body. The materials, called Pluronics™, form water-based gels which can be customized to control their structure and how they flow, important considerations in controlling how and when the drugs become active.
PhD student Gemma Newby from Prof Ian Hamley’s team at the University of Reading, together with scientists from Diamond and ISIS, have used the facilities to study different aspects of the complex behaviour of Pluronics. Their work has just been published in the Journal of Colloid and Interface Science.
Pluronics are the most widely studied and commercially important amphiphilic block copolymers. Their gelation properties are already exploited in biomedical applications, and techniques for tuning the gel transition have potential in a number of areas, not least to enable slow release drug delivery systems.
"By using data gathered from both synchrotron and neutron studies we were able to establish that it is possible to modify the structural and rheological, or flow, properties of Pluronic mixtures. This may be useful in future biomedical applications, particularly in controlled drug delivery."
Gemma Newby, University of Reading
Controlling the structure and flow properties of the gel is key, with one approach using mixtures of Pluronics. The gelation and micellization of individual Pluronic copolymers have been extensively studied, but the molecular processes that take place in Pluronic mixtures are less well understood.
The team used a technique called dynamic light scattering at Reading to determine the dimensions of the mixed Pluronic micelles that form the basis of the gels. Small angle x-ray scattering experiments conducted at Diamond and the SRS were then used to provide information on the overall gel structure, whilst small angle neutron scattering at ISIS was used to probe the how the structure of the gel changes under flow, such as during production or application.
Dr Stephen King, ISIS says, "This is the first paper to make use of the small angle scattering beamlines at both Diamond and ISIS and as such is an excellent example of the potential for future collaborative projects exploiting the complementary nature of the two facilities."
Structure, rheology and shear alignment of Pluronic block copolymer mixtures, Gemma E. Newby, Ian W. Hamley, Stephen M. King, Christopher M. Martin, Nicholas J. Terrill , Journal of Colloid and Interface Science
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