Can you deflate your spike-studded balloon?

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a means for embedding carbon nanofiber spikes (or needles)  into an elastic-like membrane to create a studded balloon that could potentially be used for drug delivery according to a Jan. 15, 2013 news item on ScienceDailyOnline,

The research community is interested in finding new ways to deliver precise doses of drugs to specific targets, such as regions of the brain. One idea is to create balloons embedded with nanoscale spikes that are coated with the relevant drug. Theoretically, the deflated balloon could be inserted into the target area and then inflated, allowing the spikes on the balloon’s surface to pierce the surrounding cell walls and deliver the drug. The balloon could then be deflated and withdrawn.

But to test this concept, researchers first needed to develop an elastic material that is embedded with these aligned, nanoscale needles. That’s where the NC State [North Carolina State University] research team came in.

“We have now developed a way of embedding carbon nanofibers in an elastic silicone membrane and ensuring that the nanofibers are both perpendicular to the membrane’s surface and sturdy enough to impale cells,” says Dr. Anatoli Melechko, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper on the work.

For some reason this description brought to mind medieval weapons of war such as this  flail (the ball

Flail-Klassischer-Flegel (Deutsch: Ein mit einem Lederriemen verzierter klassischer Flegel mit kugelförmigem Kopf und Kette als Faustriemen) Credit: Tim Avatar Bartel [downloaded from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Klassischer-Flegel.jpg]

Flail-Klassischer-Flegel (Deutsch: Ein mit einem Lederriemen verzierter klassischer Flegel mit kugelförmigem Kopf und Kette als Faustriemen) Credit: Tim Avatar Bartel [downloaded from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Klassischer-Flegel.jpg]

not the stick. There’s much more about the flail and its use as a weapon in this Wikipedia essay.

As for this nanoscaled balloon studded with carbon nanofibers, the Jan. 15, 2013 North Carolina State University news release, which originated the news item, goes on to describe the technique,

The researchers first “grew” the nanofibers on an aluminum bed, or substrate. They then added a drop of liquid silicone polymer. The polymer, nanofibers and substrate were then spun, so that centrifugal force spread the liquid polymer in a thin layer between the nanofibers – allowing the nanofibers to stick out above the surface. The polymer was then “cured,” turning the liquid polymer into a solid, elastic membrane. Researchers then dissolved the aluminum substrate, leaving the membrane embedded with the carbon nanofibers “needles.”

“This technique is relatively easy and inexpensive,” says Melechko, “so we are hoping this development will facilitate new research on targeted drug-delivery methods.”

The paper, “Transfer of Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanofibers to Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) while Maintaining their Alignment and Impalefection Functionality,” is published online in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. Lead authors on the paper are Ryan Pearce, a Ph.D. student at NC State, and Justin Railsback, a former NC State student now pursuing a Ph.D. at Northwestern University. Co-authors are Melechko; Dr. Joseph Tracy, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State; Bryan Anderson and Mehmet Sarac, Ph.D. students at NC State; and Timothy McKnight of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

It’s very interesting but I wonder how they plan to deflate the balloon and what will happen to the carbon nanofiber needles and balloon membrane after their usage?

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