KCL molecular communication system to revolutionise drug delivery

The platform safely and effectively replicates the electric signalling process compounds

Researchers from the department of engineering at King’s College London (KCL) have developed a first-of-its-kind molecular communication system to revolutionise drug delivery and the detection of dangerous chemicals.

The new system could serve as the foundation for new applications, from new forms of computation to drug delivery.

Published in Nature Communications, the team designed and prototyped the microfluidic molecular communication (MIMIC) platform, which works to send signals in real-time biological environments, such as the human body.

Molecular communications (MC) involve using chemical molecules to exchange information; most MC systems rely on molecules to carry information via a transmitter and a receiver.

Typically used when communication is needed, MC’s materials in electronic devices, including mobile phones, can cause irritation or inflammation when in contact with living tissues and electromagnetic fields in Wi-Fi can affect biological processes, including heartbeat regulation.

To resolve the limitations of MC systems in biomedical applications, researchers used chemical reactions in a microfluidic system for signal processing, replacing the biologically incompatible electronic components.

Comprising three separate chemical reactions to achieve three different signal processing functions, the MIMIC platform can safely and effectively replicate the electric signal processing components.

Additionally, the small size of these systems means they are cheap to produce and carry information in a few molecules to be analysed rapidly.

Researchers then designed a reaction at the transmitter to adjust the width and optimise the transmitted signal.

It resulted in a signal with minimal losses travelling lengths of up to 25m.

Researchers now aim to create a smaller version of the system and adapt it to application-specific chemical reactions.

Team lead, Dr Yansha Deng, reader in engineering at KCL, said: “For the first time, our work has shown that man-made molecular communication devices can process chemical signals without electronic devices and thus be biologically compatible” and “has opened the door to a bevy of biological applications where there previously were none”.

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