Precise Electronic Drug Release Thanks to Graphene Oxide Nanocomposite Material

McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Tracy Cui, PhD,


an Associate Professor and the Bicentennial Alumni Faculty Fellow, Department of Bioengineering, and researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are reporting the development of a new material based on graphene oxide that can be electrically triggered to release an anti-inflammatory drug on demand.  The results of the study were recently reported by the editors of MedGadget.

The graphene oxide nanocomposite had the drug embedded within its scaffolding and then itself embedded inside an electrically conducting polymer pouch. An electrode ran to the polymer, which, when energized with electrical current, released its drug payload in a controlled fashion. The team also showed that the rate of release was linear to the voltage applied and that the graphene oxide can be fashioned in different ways to allow for a variety of options like different payload quantities, rates of release, and maybe even automatic delivery of a drug when a disease biomarker is detected.

The study abstract reads:

On-demand, local delivery of drug molecules to target tissues provides a means for effective drug dosing while reducing the adverse effects of systemic drug delivery. This work explores an electrically controlled drug delivery nanocomposite composed of graphene oxide (GO) deposited inside a conducting polymer scaffold. The nanocomposite is loaded with an anti-inflammatory molecule, dexamethasone, and exhibits favorable electrical properties. In response to voltage stimulation, the nanocomposite releases drug with a linear release profile and a dosage that can be adjusted by altering the magnitude of stimulation. No drug passively diffuses from the composite in the absence of stimulation. In vitro cell culture experiments demonstrate that the released drug retains its bioactivity and that no toxic byproducts leach from the film during electrical stimulation. Decreasing the size and thickness of the GO nanosheets, by means of ultrasonication treatment prior to deposition into the nanocomposite, alters the film morphology, drug load, and release profile, creating an opportunity to fine-tune the properties of the drug delivery system to meet a variety of therapeutic needs. The high level of temporal control and dosage flexibility provided by the electrically controlled GO nanocomposite drug delivery platform make it an exciting candidate for on-demand drug delivery.

Illustration:  Department of Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh.

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Abstract (Electrically Controlled Drug Delivery from Graphene Oxide Nanocomposite Films.  Cassandra L. Weaver, Jaclyn M. LaRosa, Xiliang Luo, and Xinyan Tracy Cui.  ACS Nano; online 01/15/14.)