CSIRO tells of sea shells that protect sensitive cures

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

A metal organic framework (MOF) based on sea urchin shells could help deliver drugs and protect vaccines
A metal organic framework (MOF) based on sea urchin shells could help deliver drugs and protect vaccines
A capsule inspired by the porous structure of seashells has been developed to protect drugs from extreme temperatures and could be used in controlled delivery.

Scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), The University of Adelaide and the Australian Synchrotron, are developing a casing for pharmaceuticals based on the protective but porous shells of sea urchins.

The team has created a metal organic framework (MOF) capsule which mimics the effect of the calcium carbonate shells in nature and, according to CSIRO’s team leader Paolo Falcaro, “seems to be a new promising method for the protection of pharmaceuticals from temperature,”​ without the need for refrigeration.

“Under the proper conditions, the Metal-Organic Framework capsule is produced by just adding the precursors into the solution with the pharmaceutical,”​ he explained to in-Pharmatechnologist.com. “The synthesis occurs under physiological conditions. The materials used are cost-effective and readily available.”


Such a technology has the potential to extend the shelf-life of vaccines in extreme temperatures, for example, but Falcaro added the ‘shell’ could also be used as a modified-release platform for drugmakers.

“We [have] demonstrated that the MOF shell can dissolve under acidic conditions,”​ he said. “However, we are confident that we could tune the chemistry of the shell in order to pre-programme the release under different conditions.”​ 

The projects are ongoing and the team is looking for partners to take these products to the commercial stage.

“Based on the information we have, our method could be of high value for certain pharmaceuticals, therefore we believe we will find an enthusiastic response from pharma companies. We will definitely have a better appreciation of the interest within the current year as we begin to engage discussion with different commercial partners.”

This isn’t the first time the pharma world has looked to shellfish. Blood from horseshoe crabs is used in a quality control endotoxin tests, detecting gram-negative bacteria in pharmaceutical products.

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