Can plastic carry a cure?

Polymers may transport treatments for host of conditions.

A tiny piece of plastic may hold the key to delivering medications more effectively and efficiently to treat some of mankind’s most devastating illnesses, ensuring patients receive the best care they need in the right timeframe and improving and possibly saving lives.

In labs at Rowan University and in his company OcuMedic Inc., Dr. Mark Byrne, Rowan’s chairman of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, leads researchers who are exploring how to use chemical and natural polymers – types of plastics as well as DNA and RNA – to treat cancer, glaucoma, neurodegenerative diseases and more.

They are engineering materials that can:

  • Deliver glaucoma treatment via contact lenses, using a polymer lens with a “memory” that can time the release of medication.
  • Target chemotherapy with less damage to the body, by attaching thousands of therapeutics to nanoparticles using DNA and RNA – “nature’s polymers” – to directly target cancer cells rather than bombarding the whole body with treatment.
  • Combat a neurodegenerative disease that usually is fatal in early childhood, by delivering a missing brain enzyme via an injectable nanocapsule that crosses the blood-brain barrier.

The work is in various stages, from preclinical to soon starting human trials. But the goal of the research, in part supported by the National Institutes of Health, is the same: to provide direct treatments that will lead to better outcomes and possibly longer lives for patients.

Contact Us: For more information about any of these initiatives, please contact:
Dr. Joe Cardona, cardona@rowan.edu, 856-256-4236.