MIT chemical engineers have devised a new way to create very tiny droplets of one liquid suspended within another liquid, known as nanoemulsions.
Such emulsions are similar to the mixture that forms when you shake an oil-and-vinegar salad dressing, but with much smaller droplets. Their tiny size allows them to remain stable for relatively long periods of time.
The researchers also found a way to easily convert the liquid nanoemulsions to a gel when they reach body temperature (37 degrees Celsius), which could be useful for developing materials that can deliver medication when rubbed on the skin or injected into the body.
“The pharmaceutical industry is hugely interested in nanoemulsions as a way of delivering small molecule therapeutics.
"That could be topically, through ingestion, or by spraying into the nose, because once you start getting into the size range of hundreds of nanometers you can permeate much more effectively into the skin,” says Patrick Doyle, the Robert T Haslam Professor of Chemical Engineering and the senior author of the study.
In their new study, which appears in a recent issue of 'Nature Communications', the researchers created nanoemulsions that were stable for more than a year. To demonstrate the emulsions’ potential usefulness for delivering drugs, the researchers showed that they could incorporate ibuprofen into the droplets.
Seyed Meysam Hashemnejad, a former MIT postdoc, is the first author of the study. Other authors include former postdoc Abu Zayed Badruddoza, L’Oréal senior scientist Brady Zarket, and former MIT summer research intern Carlos Ricardo Castaneda.