Students are challenged to think as biomedical engineers and brainstorm ways to administer medication to a patient who is unable to swallow. They learn about the advantages and disadvantages of current drug delivery methods—oral, injection, topical, inhalation and suppository—and pharmaceutical design considerations, including toxicity, efficacy, size, solubility/bioavailability and drug release duration. They apply their prior knowledge about human anatomy, the circulatory system, polymers, crystals and stoichiometry to real-world biomedical applications. A Microsoft® PowerPoint® presentation and worksheets are provided. This lesson prepares students for the associated activity in which they create and test large-size drug encapsulation prototypes to provide the desired delayed release and duration timing.
Students experience the engineering design process as they design, fabricate, test and redesign their own methods for encapsulation of a (hypothetical) new miracle drug. As if they are engineers, teams make large-size prototypes to test proof of concept. They use household materials (tape, paper towels, plastic wrap, weed-barrier fabric, glues, etc.) to attach a coating to a porous "shell" (a perforated plastic Wiffle® ball) containing the medicine (colored drink mix powder). The objective is to delay the drug release by a certain time and have a long release duration—patterned after the timed release requirements of many real-world pharmaceuticals that are released from a polymer shell via diffusion in the body. Guided by a worksheet, teams go through at least three design/test iterations, aiming to achieve a solution close to the target time release constraints.
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