The researchers believe that they have overcome some of the shortcomings of hydrogels, namely the need for drug carriers and the generation of toxic components.
In doing so the researchers say they have developed structures that are capable of delivering high concentrations of therapeutics, without the associated negative side effects.
Dr Jeffrey Karp, instructor of medicine at the HST Center for Biomedical Engineering at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, said: "This strategy could serve as the platform technology for developing drug-based delivery carriers that can release drugs such as anti-inflammatory agents on demand in response to inflammation, for example."
The researchers have been studying methods for converting clinically approved drugs into amphiphilic molecules that are capable of self assembly. This process is intended to remove the need for external carriers in the delivery of drugs.
By using their expertise in enzyme triggered gel degradation the researchers believe they have advanced the technology.
The research was conducted by two teams of scientists from Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology (HST) and is to be published in the 25 November issue of Biomaterials.
Ever advancing hydrogels
The researchers work is the latest in a series of hydrogel developments, which have advanced over the past few decades to become a viable device for controlled drug delivery.
Over this period biodegradable, smart and biomimetic hydrogels have been developed in conjunction with control mechanisms, which can be initiated by factors including diffusion, swelling and chemical concentrations.