Controlling drug activity with light

In a new publication, a team co-led by Professor Polina Anikeeva and OHSU Research Assistant Professor James Frank introduces a microfiber technology to deliver and activate a drug that can be induced to bind its receptor by exposure to light.

To use light to control drug activity, light and drugs must be delivered simultaneously to the targeted cells, which can be difficult when the target is deep in the body. “A significant barrier in applying light-controllable drugs to modulate neural circuits in living animals is the lack of hardware which enables simultaneous delivery of both light and drugs to the target brain area,” says Frank, who was previously a postdoc in Anikeeva’s Bioelectronics group within the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. “Our work offers an integrated approach for on-demand delivery of light and drugs through a single fiber."

The fibers contain a fluidic channel and an optical waveguide and are comprised of many layers of different materials that are fused together to provide flexibility and strength. The original form of the fiber is constructed at a macroscale and then heated and pulled (a process called thermal drawing) to become longer, but nearly 70 times smaller in diameter. By this method, hundreds of meters of miniaturized fiber can be created from the original template at a cross-sectional scale of micrometers that minimizes tissue damage.