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Medical drugs sometimes cause more damage than they cure. One solution to this problem is to put the drugs inside a capsule, protecting them from the body—and the body from them—until they can be released at just the right spot. There are lots of ways to trigger (引发) this release, including changing temperature, acidity, and so on. But triggers can come with their own risks—burns, for example. Now, researchers in California have designed what could be a harmless trigger to date: shining near-infrared light (NIR, 近红外线) on the drug in the capsule.

The idea of using light to liberate the drug in the capsule isn’t new. Researchers around the globe have developed polymers (聚合物) and other materials that begin to break down when they absorb either ultraviolet (UV, 紫外线) or visible light. But tissues also readily absorb UV and visible light, which means the drug release can be triggered only near the skin, where the light can reach the capsule. NIR light largely passes through tissues, so researchers have tried to use it as a trigger. But few compounds (化合物) absorb NIR well and go through chemical changes.

    
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