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Self-oscillating macrogel for pulsatile release

Potential applications in drug delivery, organ growth and soft robotics.

Unmet Need

A growing and ageing global population resents a significant challenge for health services. Ensuring that patients receive appropriate, cost effective treatment, while being less reliant on hospitals, is an issue that needs a solution now.

A priority is drug delivery technologies. They can to enhance the efficacy and precision of therapies. They can also reduce side effects by providing controlled drug release.

The Technology

The pulsatile release of a cargo from flat macrogels uses an internal reaction. This is the driving force for pH oscillations and consequent volume oscillations of the macrogels.

The unique and fundamental concept of the technology is the precise rhythmic control of the expansion and contraction of hydrogels pores. Our scientists have developed biocompatible hydrogel-based materials with intention to use them as a platform technology for controlled/targeted drug delivery.

Tuneable parameters include:

  • cargo content
  • rate of drug release
  • drug release profile (linear, burst-linear, depo-linear, depo-burst, pulsatile)


Although medicine is the obvious application it is amongst three areas where the technology could be applied.

  • Medicine: The macrogel could carry a pharmaceutical cargo to deliver a dose once a day over a period of a month or other specified time.
  • Organ growth: The macrogol could provide a scaffold for artificial organ growth where the organ requires an inherent pulse to develop strength and suppleness for organs optimum operation i.e. artificial hearts
  • Soft Robotics: Macrogels could provide a use in flexible electronics and sensory applications in soft robots that will not only provide more flexible robots, but will react more like living creatures to their environment.


There are self-oscilating polymer gels described in the literature that are material/chemical oscillator model systems, fabricated by Yoshida et al. or membrane/oscillator diffusion systems, fabricated by Siegel et al., however, oscillation-controlled pulsed drug release has not been reported before.


1 Y. S. Kim, R. Tamate, A. M. Akimoto, R. Yoshida, J. Groen, H. W. H. van Roekel, T. F. A. de Greef, W. T. S. Huck and T. Aida, Mater. Horiz., 2017, 4, 38–54.

2 R. Yoshida, Adv. Mater., 2010, 22, 3463–3483.

3 R. Tamate, A. Mizutani Akimoto and R. Yoshida, Chem. Rec., 2016, 16, 1852–1867.

4 G. P. Misra and R. A. Siegel, J. Control. Release, 2002, 79, 293–297.

5 G. P. Misra and R. A. Siegel, J. Control. Release, 2002, 81, 1–6.

6 A. S. Bhalla and R. A. Siegel, J. Control. Release, 2014, 196, 261–271.


Tim Blackburn: