Treatments that are applied to non-target areas within the body can lead to unnecessary side effects and cause debilitating symptoms. In some instances, this can prompt patients to stop their course of treatment early. In an effort to combat this and limit side effects, researchers are in the process of designing and developing light-activated small molecules that can be switched on and off in the body.
The treatments would be designed to target and penetrate a specific area, according to an article published in Chemical & Engineering News. A good example of this would be where doctors turn on chemotherapy agents to kill tumors and turn on antibiotics to wipe out bacteria within the body.
Although photoswitchable (also known as photodynamic) therapies aren’t new, they are still in the process of being developed and have some drawbacks. For instance, certain therapies are switched on with UV light, but wavelengths don’t penetrate very far through the skin and can cause mutations.
Additionally, the treatment may face some pushback when it comes to obtaining regulatory approvals because it is very complex. Despite some of the anticipated obstacles, chemists are moving forward with their research in hope that more selective therapies could be used to treat patients in need.