The pharmaceutical industry uses various systems for delivering drug doses over time. One of these is the matrix tablet.
These are made by mixing the drug in powder form with an inactive filler ingredient and a polymer binder, then compressing and heating the mixture to form a hard pill. When ingested, these tablets dissolve and crumble, releasing the drug into the body.
An important question is how quickly the drug enters the body. One way to assess this is experimentally, using an analogue of the human digestion system in a wetlab. But this process is messy, time consuming and expensive.
Today, Peter Hinow at the University of Wisconsin and a few pals suggest a new way to do this by computation. Their idea is to model a matrix tablet is if it were a pile of cubic building blocks, where each element is a cube of the active drug, the filler, a polymer binder, empty space or water. In fact, the whole system is like a three-dimensional chemical lego set.
By themselves, each block is stable but the cubes react
with water in different ways. The empty blocks fill up at a certain rate
while the filler, binder and drug blocks dissolve at certain rates.
Once dissolved, these cubes become water blocks.