Hydrogels: taking the fight to cancer

16th January 2017

Posted By Paul Boughton

Any equipment used in this application must be able to produce highly acurate results, making the Ther-Mix an ideal solution
The Ther-Mix is a user-friendly solution designed to take the legwork out of sample preparation
Ther-Mix system is designed to remove multiple steps¬ and variables from sample preparation

Dan Goodman reports on the successful use of hydrogels in drug delivery systems

Cancer is the number one cause of premature death in the UK. A study recently conducted by Ahmad et al. (2015) found that, “Over half of people who are currently adults under the age of 65 years will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime.”

You only have to read the headlines to find new scientific advances being made every week, each one aiming to either promote earlier diagnosis or develop a new method of treatment. With some of the most exciting recent developments being made in controlled-release drug delivery systems, hydrogels have been receiving growing attention in recent years; lower toxicity and fewer side effects making them an ideal candidate.

According to Cassano et al. (2016), previously common methods of administrating drugs have been shown to be both ineffective and unreliable, especially those taken orally. Avoiding complications such as cost-effectiveness, side-effects and ‘cooling off’ periods are essential to the further advancement of numerous areas within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry.

The role of hydrogels

Utilising hydrogels as drug delivery systems within anti- cancer treatments has not only proven to deliver the necessary dosage directly to the tumour, but also reduce side effects by minimising the number of healthy cells affected.

The use of hydrogels within these treatments is fast reducing the number of barriers between where we are now, and a world in which cancer can be treated quickly and effectively.

Although there is no one universal method of synthesising hydrogels, all must undergo characterisation in order to acquire the properties needed for whatever function they must carry out.

When characterising hydrogels for use in drug delivery systems the procedure must be replicable to ensure that the same hydrogel is produced every time. Failure to synthesise uniform gels not only puts subjects at risk, but also severely decreases the validity of any tests. With this in mind, any equipment used must be able to produce highly accurate results and achieve an acceptable level of reliability – the perfect application for a Ther-Mix.

A happy customer

The company behind the Ther-Mix solution, Vitl, spoke to Dr Gubala, lecturer in Chemistry and Drug Delivery at the Medway School of Pharmacy, to hear his views on the system and how it aided his work with hydrogels. He comments: “The Ther-Mix allows us to mix the reagents in various ratios, thus creating hydrogels with different properties. We can study up to 24 hydrogels at the same time, whilst ensuring that other variables such as shaking speed and temperature are very precisely controlled.

“Such great precision is absolutely critical for us but I’m sure it is extremely important for many other material scientists preparing new, exciting materials. When I think of how we used to deal with this in the past, using some unreliable, make- shift, heated water baths with mechanical stirrers or the bulky and expensive shaking incubators, I am very glad I purchased a Ther-Mix as soon as it became available on the market.”

Box Story: (Pic: Thermix.jpg)

Taking the legwork out of sample prep

The Ther-Mix system is designed to remove multiple steps¬ and variables from sample preparation. Once a user’s program is saved, they simply need to attach the Heated Module for their consumable, press play and wait for the beep to tell them that the program has finished.

Ther-Mix boasts a temperature accuracy +/- 0.1c. It is fully programmable, with the ability to create and store up to 100 mixing programs. It also features a visual countdown timer and audible alert on completion of mixing program as well as an easy to use touchscreen user interface.

Application examples include: ELISA; sample prep for PCR; DNA isolation; and sample incubation.

For more information, visit

Dan Goodman is with Vitl.





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