Nanotube-Packed Pills Could Target Cancer Directly - Dream Health

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Monday 14 September 2015

Nanotube-Packed Pills Could Target Cancer Directly


Nanotechnology – Targeting Cancerous Cells

New studies into nanotechnology is being explored to find ways in tackling problems of targeting cancerous cells and chemotherapy could one day be replaced by high tech pills to treat cancer. Nanotechnologies could be defined as the characterisation, design, production as well as application of structures, systems and devices in controlling the shape and size at a nanometre scale wherein the benefits of nanomaterial are recognized in literature.

Some commentators are of the opinion that nanotechnology tends to exceed the impact of the Industrial Revolution heading towards a $1 trillion market in 2015. In medicine, the interest lies in the use of nanoparticles to improve drug delivery with interest too in, `in vitro diagnostics, novel biomaterial design, bio-imaging, therapies as well as active implants.

According to American society for Testing and Materials – ASTM, the standard definition of nanoparticles are particles with length which may range from 1 to 100 nm in 2 or 3 dimensions. Nanoparticle which is studied the most is carbon nanotubes, gold nanoparticles – GNPs and cadmium selenide quantum dots.

Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Nanotechnology at Oxford University, Dr Sonia Trigueros states that `Nanotechnology is a new exciting field which has the potential to transform the way that medical and healthcare solutions are being developed’.

Target of Medicine At Nano Level

Trigueros has been working with her colleagues of chemist, physicist as well as engineers in coating nanotubes in drugs, wrap them in protective DNA and utilise them to eliminate cancer. Her work has been motivated by taking on cancer at its own nano scale wherein she explains that `all of the targets for the medicine are at the nano level’.

She further informed the audience at WIRED Health 2015, that the purpose of the project which may happen in 20 years is to take a pill made of these carbon nanotubes every year and as soon as one has one or two cancer cells, these nanotubes tend to target them and kills the cancer before it gets to the tumour level’.

 A lot of work needs to be done initially and one of the biggest is the funds. Trigueros has presently spent 80% of her time attempting to collect funds in continuing with the research and working at such small scale could be faced with great problems. She explains that the nano structures tend to be very unstable and break down after a few days.

Accurately Targeted Drug Delivery

However, on working with the structure of DNA for 20 years, Trigueros has turned out to be quite good at playing around with it and can now handle to wrap carbon nanotubes in DNA, keeping them stable for over two years at temperature up to 42C.

Besides keeping the drug delivering carbon nanotube stable, it also tends to enable them to target specific cells. Since cancer cells are more permeable than the normal cells, Trigueros explains that, this permits the nanotubesto enter the cells, unpack the DNA and then release the cancer-killing drug which is an accurately targeted drug delivery.

 The research could ultimately take the form of a new pill made of these nanotubes. Trigueros has plans for another generation of drug delivery, expecting greater understanding of interdisciplinary studies with the combination of physics, biology and chemistry which can make it happen.

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