An elegant new way to deliver drugs may lie in the walls of a plastic molecule built like an onion. Designed by Brown University scientist Edith Mathiowitz and her colleagues, the microsphere could release a different dose of drugs as each layer dissolves. That way, a drug could be delivered in a single injection instead of in a series.

In the Jan. 20 issue of Nature, the Brown scientists reported on a double-walled microsphere composed of polymers that have been approved for human use by the Food & Drug Administration. In theory, the number of layers is unlimited, but Mathiowitz says she's up to just three so far. Next, she hopes her lab can build an insulin-releasing microsphere. Biotech company Alkermes Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., which licensed the technology late last year, sees it as the next generation of drug delivery.

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