Scientists use levitation to make better drugs

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[Credit: Argonne National Laboratory]

Who needs magic when you can have science? Researchers at the U.S Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory recently came up with a rather elegant solution to one of the biggest challenges in drug development: keeping pharmaceutical substances from solidifying into their crystalline form.

Enter Argonne X-Ray physicist Chris Benmore. In an attempt to figure out a way to evaporate solutions without having them come in contact with a physical vessel, Benmore, who spearheaded the study, turned to an acoustic levitator, a device that NASA originally conceived to simulate microgravity conditions.

If you're wondering why keeping drugs from solidifying into crystals is such an issue, it's because drugs that are crystalline in shape do not get fully absorbed by the body, something that keeps them from optimal effectiveness. Unfortunately, this is difficult to prevent as solutions that evaporate while in contact with a physical vessel generally solidify into their crystalline forms.

To get around this, the scientists skipped out on the usage of traditional containers and used levitation by way of the acoustic levitator to form pristine samples that "can be probed in situ" with the high-energy X-ray beam at Argonne's Advanced Photon Source instead.

Though the acoustic levitator is only capable of working with small quantities of a drug at a time, Argonne Senior Manager for Intellectual Property Development and Commercialization Yash Vaishnav sees it as a powerful analytical tool.

According to the Argonne National Laboratory, the laboratory is currently both pursuing a patent for this unusually awesome method of drug "amorphization" and working on identifying which drugs the levitation instrumentation will impact most.

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This story, "Scientists use levitation to make better drugs" was originally published by TechHive.

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