One of the most hyped frontiers of nanotechnology research in the medical field is in the field of cancer treatment. Several proposed approaches have been covered by Global Tech News, from sticky nanotube bombs to wiggly, drug-ferrying worms. All of these techniques show promise and give hope to cancer researchers for combating one of the most feared diseases known to man.
One of medicine’s premier detection systems for cancerous tumors is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MIT’s nanoparticle worms are a promising agent for cancer detection and treatment due to the way they shine brightly on MRI scans combined with their ability to deliver drugs directly to the tumor. Their structure also allows them great capacity for carrying anti-tumor drugs and chemical tumor-seeking compounds due to large surface area for a nanoparticle.
Researchers at Brown University have created a similar cancer treatment nanoparticle from the same components as MIT’s nanoworms, iron oxide nanospheres. There are a few things that set the two agents apart, however. Where MIT’s nanoworms are composed of eight iron oxide spheres coated with a polymer derived from complex sugar molecules, Brown’s nanoparticles do their job as single units.
Rather than using a polymer coating and attaching cancer-seeking peptides and toxins to it, Brown’s nanoparticle simply uses a peptide coating called RGD to attach the particles to tumor cells. They found that RGD attaches seamlessly to brain tumor cells known as U87MG in mice. Another advantage over standard MRI contrast agents is that the peptide coating is a mere two-nanometers thick, versus the 20 nanometer coatings used on agents like Feridex. The ultra-thin coating allows the iron oxide spheres to shine like beacons on MRI scans, showing much more brightly than widely used agents currently do.
The super small particles measure a mere 8.4 nanometers in diameter, including the peptide coating. The particles are approximately six hundred percent smaller than presently used MRI contrast agents, and some of the smallest particles in being used in research of this type. The tiny size of the nanoparticle is important as it lets the spheres travel through the bloodstream without causing blockages while being small enough to elude the body’s natural self-defense mechanisms.
The research was done in collaboration with scientists at Stanford University, and the group’s results have been published in this week’s edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
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