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"Spike Strip" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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Researchers at North Carolina State University have devised a technique to embed needle-like carbon nanofibers in an elastic membrane, creating a flexible "bed of nails" on the nanoscale that opens the door to development of new drug-delivery systems.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:


I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

In the search for more effective means to treat disease, (Sound effect: heart monitor) researchers look for new ways to deliver meds to the precise point in the body where they can do the most good--with the least damage to healthy cells.

One new concept is a nanoscale balloon-like device with tiny spikes coated with a drug. Insert the balloon into the target area, inflate it and the spikes on the balloon's surface pierce the surrounding cell walls and deliver the drug, the balloon is then deflated and withdrawn.

Scientists at North Carolina State University have brought us a step closer to realizing that vision. They've come up with a technique to embed needle-like carbon nanofibers into an elastic membrane.

The team started by "growing" carbon nanofibers on an aluminum substrate. A drop of silicone is added and everything is spun. Centrifugal force spreads the silicone around the fibers, holding them in place. The silicone is cured and the aluminum substrate dissolved--leaving a flexible membrane embedded with tiny needles--a miniature 'bed of nails.'

The scientists say the technique is relatively easy and inexpensive. It could lead to the development of new targeted drug delivery systems.

That's my idea of the ultimate "get well soon" balloon.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's national science foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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