At the sharp end

You swallow a pill and you expect it to work.

The most common method of administering medicine

However, orally delivered drugs have many obstructions: they have to withstand stomach acid, pass across intestinal cell membranes, avoid destruction in the liver, and are affected by the presence of food and/or other medicines.

But oral medicines are economical, convenient, you don't (usually) need someone else to help you take them, you can accurately monitor your own dose, and don't need any special equipment (no scary needles).

While oral administration is the most common there is also parenteral administration by intravenous, intramuscular and subcutaneous injections.

The parenteral method is prefferable as it is more efficient, but it is costly - both in the development and the administration. At the moment only a few medicines, such as insulin, are delivered this way.

Dr. Jingjing Liu from the Institute for Particle Science and Engineering at University of Leeds has looked at ways of reducing the cost of production of protein crystals that are a part of protein-based medicines - which are usually administered by injection. Historically, medicine manufacturers have faced challenges growing crystals on an industrial scale as they require specific complex nutrient solutions.  

Dr Liu is using the Linkam LTS350 stage in his research on the growth behaviour of multiple crystals of hen egg white lysozyme. He said: “One of the advantages of the Linkam stage is that larger volumes of liquid can be used which in turn generate more crystals.”

This research is fundamental to further understanding the behaviour of crystal growth in a population and provides crucial information for the design, optimization and control of industrial-scale protein crystallization.

Scaling up this vital research is the first step to competing with pill-based medicine.