For a long time the polyethylene glycol molecule has been used in medical work and research due to its properties and also its biodegradability. When some molecules are PEGylated, which is to say that the PEG molecule is attached to a larger molecule, they serve certain purposes. An example of this is the PEGylated interferon Alfa-2a which is used in the cure of hepatitis C in form of injections. Some other uses for these compounds include:
- Most detergents and soaps as well as tooth pastes have surfactants in them as an ingredient. These surfactants are produced when the PEG is coupled with hydrophobic molecules. This is an essential part of most detergents which are used in biochemical laboratories and they can be able to be broken down easily due to this structure.
- PEGylated monomers have been used in the enzyme replacement therapy that helps to alleviate symptoms in patients with Phenyl Ketonuria, which is an inborn enzymatic disorder. This form of molecular therapy has not been really publicized but initial tests on some subjects have shown great benefits.
- PEGylated monomers are also some of the most used macromolecular monomers that are used in tissue engineering and they are also applied to cell encapsulation purposes. This is because they make substances that mimic the extracellular matrix and support cellular viability.
- These substances are also widely used as suppository bases. Suppositories are drugs that are entered into the body via the rectum, the vagina or the urinary tract. This substance is mixed with other medications to treat infection in this way.
- They are also used in the making of laxatives and also other classes of medicines to perform like excipients. This is especially common when the medicine in question is in form of tablets.
- Before surgery or colonoscopy, irrigation of the bowel is done using the polyethylene glycol compounds. This maintains clarity for the doctor to be able to operate and get clear images of the intestinal system. These compounds can also be used as a short term relief for chronic constipation.
When used in medicine, the PEGs are bonded to protein molecules in order to ensure they are released slowly into the bloodstream. This makes the drug effective in the body and also reduces the chance of toxicity. The compound has also been found to enable nerve repair and is said to be used to fuse B-cells with myeloma cells in monoclonal antibody production.