Nanotech team mounts a search-and-destroy mission against cancer cells

An investigative team at the University of Cincinnati which specializes in nanotechnology says they've tested a new approach to destroying cancer cells--injecting the specific target cells with iron oxide nanoparticles and then using light-induced heat to burn them up.

Working with living mouse cells, the team--which involves doctoral student Andrew Dunn along with professor Donglu Shi, David Mast and Giovanni Pauletti--found that injecting the nanoparticle directly into tumors or through the bloodstream they could destroy the cancer cells without harming the surrounding healthy tissue.

The carrier vehicles are designed to latch onto the cancer cells through a tumor specific ligand of an antibody antigen reaction, with the conjugated cancer cell corrupted with the nanoparticles that break through the cell membrane.

According to Shi, who's been working away at a new nanomaterial transport vehicle, this new approach would allow for early detection and early treatment, avoiding chemotherapy which is often used too late to stop cancer from spreading.

Donglu Shi

"This treatment is much more ideal because it goes straight to the cancer cell," says Shi. "The nanomaterials enter only the abnormal cells, illuminating those cells and then doing whatever it is you have designed them to do. In this case, it is to heat up hot enough to burn and kill the cancer cells, but not harm the surrounding normal cells."

The National Science Foundation supported the research project.

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