Scientists Use Sound Waves to Levitate Liquids, Improve Pharmaceuticals

It's not a magic trick and it's not sleight of hand -- scientists really are using levitation to improve the drug development process, eventually yielding more effective pharmaceuticals with fewer side effects

500px.com
500px.com

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a way to use sound waves to levitate individual droplets of solutions containing different pharmaceuticals. While the connection between levitation and drug development may not be immediately apparent, a special relationship emerges at the molecular level.


At the molecular level, pharmaceutical structures fall into one of two categories: amorphous or crystalline. Amorphous drugs typically are more efficiently taken up by the body than their crystalline cousins; this is because amorphous drugs are both more highly soluble and have a higher bioavailability, suggesting that a lower dose can produce the desired effect.


"One of the biggest challenges when it comes to drug development is in reducing the amount of the drug needed to attain the therapeutic benefit, whatever it is," said Argonne X-ray physicist Chris Benmore, who led the study.


"Most drugs on the market are crystalline -- they don't get fully absorbed by the body and thus we aren't getting the most efficient use out of them," added Yash Vaishnav, Argonne Senior Manager for Intellectual Property Development and Commercialization.


Getting pharmaceuticals from solution into an amorphous state, however, is no easy task. If the solution evaporates while it is in contact with part of a vessel, it is far more likely to solidify in its crystalline form. "It's almost as if these substances want to find a way to become crystalline," Benmore said.


In order to avoid this problem, Benmore needed to find a way to evaporate a solution without it touching anything. Because liquids conform to the shape of their containers, this was a nearly impossible requirement -- so difficult, in fact, that Benmore had to turn to an acoustic levitator, a piece of equipment originally developed for NASA to simulate microgravity conditions.


Levitation or "containerless processing" can form pristine samples that can be probed in situ with the high-energy X-ray beam at Argonne's Advanced Photon Source. "This allows amorphization of the drug to be studied while it is being processed," said Rick Weber, who works on the project team at the synchrotron.


The acoustic levitator uses two small speakers to generate sound waves at frequencies slightly above the audible range -- roughly 22 kilohertz. When the top and bottom speakers are precisely aligned, they create two sets of sound waves that perfectly interfere with each other, setting up a phenomenon known as a standing wave.


At certain points along a standing wave, known as nodes, there is no net transfer of energy at all. Because the acoustic pressure from the sound waves is sufficient to cancel the effect of gravity, light objects are able to levitate when placed at the nodes.


Although only small quantities of a drug can currently be "amorphized" using this technique, it remains a powerful analytical tool for understanding the conditions that make for the best amorphous preparation, Vaishnav explained.


Argonne researchers have already investigated more than a dozen different pharmaceuticals, and the laboratory's Technology Development & Commercialization Division is currently pursuing a patent for the method. Technology Development & Commercialization is also interested in partnering with the pharmaceutical industry to develop the technology further as well as to license it for commercial development.


After adapting the technology for drug research, the Argonne scientists teamed up with Professors Stephen Byrn and Lynne Taylor at the Department of Industrial and Physical Pharmacy at Purdue University and Jeffery Yarger of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Arizona State University. The group is now working on identifying which drugs the levitation instrumentation will impact most strongly.

Comments

A problem with pharmaceuticals is that they were designed to treat the symptoms, not the cause.
To top it off... they also inherently suppress the immune system (which is NOT a good thing) and often have damaging side-effects.

While I will acknowledge the notion that even natural substances can have side-effects... they still remain the best option in actually treating a cause of a problem and are less likely to kill you compared to man-made drugs.

Humans need to work on the approach which is used to make pharmaceuticals.
Design them to solve the underlying cause (not just the symptoms) with minimal to no adverse impact on the body.

I've read that the problem with antibiotics (synthetic ones) is that they are mono-dimensional (which among other things is resulting in suppression of the immune system and loss of effectiveness over time on various bacteria which have a tendency to develop resistance)... while natural antibiotics such as garlic and onions are multi-dimensional which do NOT suppress the immune system and do NOT lose effectiveness over bacterial infections that cannot develop a resistance to them.

But one thing to note is that the medical industry is slowly coming to grips that natural products such as onions, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil and proper nutrition CAN in fact treat numerous illnesses better than 'drugs' can.

And if I'm not mistaken, what doctors usually were telling people up until some 15 years ago (or so) was that: pharmaceutical drugs should only be used in emergency situations if no other option exists, and only for a VERY SHORT amount of time (due to the potential side-effects - such as a internal organ damage).

Today, people do the exact opposite and pop drugs like pills... while even pharmaceutical companies tout 'lower toxicity' and death tolls continue to be unchanged (no change in mortality rates), or even increase due to overdose on prescription drugs alone (let alone others).

This is especially the case with the so called ARV's used to treat 'HIV/AIDS'.
They are said to be producing next to no toxic effects because the drugs are 'new'... even though the drugs themselves are just old drugs in adjusted dosages (lower dosages) - and there was also a Padian study conducted which effectively deduced that people who were on these coctails didn't really live longer (mortality rates remained unaltered) and the side-effects were just as bad (though some cases exhibited smaller impact due to lower dosages).