Having completed my undergraduate here at Warwick in Biomedical Chemistry I particularly all science that finds medicinal applications. The theoretical first half of the year was useful, the smaller student to teacher ratio much more beneficial than undergrad style lectures. Particularly useful was the large overview of theory behind many of the commonly used analytical techniques used in industry.
Research Project: Stimuli Responsive biomaterials
In the second half of the year I undertook a project studying stimuli responsive polymers. My study focuses on a polymer called NIPAM, that exhibits a lower critical solution temperature (LCST) close to that of body temperature. Below its LCST pNIPAM forms a homogenous mixture in water, though upon heating through and beyond it, the polymer precipites out, this macroscopic observation known as the cloud point. These responsive properties manifest well in bio-related applications such as ‘smart’ drug deliver; where a drug-polymer conjugate can be tuned to release the drug dependent upon local physiological conditions, thus potentially site specific.
LCST occurs as a result of thermodynamics associated with mixing. Below its LCST NIPAM exists as a flexible chain with water molecules associated with hydrophilic monomer groups, however, upon heating above its LCST the favourability of mixing changes and there is an entropic gain associated with the release of associated water molecules driving the transition to a homogenous mixture that sees water molecules released into the bulk, the polymer taking on a more compact form and precipitating out.
Interestingly, due to tumour cells rapid growth their temperatures are known to approximately 2 oC higher than that of body temperature. With fine tuning of a polymers LCST this offers an ideal stimulus for targetted drug delivery avoiding common side effects associated with traditional, non-specific, highly toxic drugs used currently such as hair loss.