Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers develop cancer ’nanobomb’

17.10.2005


University of Delaware researchers are opening a new front in the war on cancer, bringing to bear new nanotechnologies for cancer detection and treatment and introducing a unique nanobomb that can literally blow up breast cancer tumors.



Balaji Panchapakesan, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UD, has recently reported on the discoveries in the journals NanoBiotechnology and Oncology Issues.

He is the lead investigator for a team that includes Eric Wickstrom, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and his student Greg Cesarone, and UD graduate students Shaoxin Lu, Kousik Sivakumar and postdoctoral researcher Kasif Teker.


Panchapakesan said this is basic research in the very early stages of inquiry and that it would take extensive testing and years of clinical trials before the nanobombs could actually be used in medical applications to treat human beings.

“Make no mistake, we are focused on eradicating cancer,” Panchapakesan said, explaining that the nanobombs are the result of work over the past two years with carbon nanotubes, which are atoms of carbon arranged in tubular form.

Originally, he said, the research team was looking at the use of the carbon nanotubes as drug delivery vehicles. Because they are smaller than the size of a single cell, the nanotubes can provide for the highly selective injection of drugs into individual cells.

As they undertook various experiments, however, the team made a startling discovery. “When you put the atoms in different shapes and forms, they take on different properties at the nanoscale,” Panchapakesan said. “We were experimenting with the molecules and considering optical and thermal properties, and found we could trigger microscopic explosions of nanotubes in wide variety of conditions.”

Explosions in air of loosely packed nanotubes have been seen before in an oxygen environment, creating ignition. However, the work reported by Panchapakesan uses the localized thermal energy imbalance to set off explosions that are intrinsic in nature.

Panchapakesan said the nanobombs are just that, tiny bombs on the nanoscale. “They work almost like cluster bombs,” he said. “Once they are exposed to light and the resulting heat, they start exploding one after another.”

The bombs are created by bundling the carbon nanotubes. With a single nanotube, the heat generated by the light is dissipated by surrounding air. In bundles, the heat cannot dissipate as quickly and the result is “an explosion on the nanoscale,” Panchapakesan said.

When the UD researchers saw the explosions, they realized it might be possible to use the microscopic bombs to kill cancer cells. They recreated the explosions in solutions including water, phosphate and salt, which meant the nanobombs could be used in the human body. In fact the explosions were more dramatic in saline solutions, Panchapakesan said.

“The nanobomb is very selective, very localized and minimally invasive,” Panchapakesan said. “It might cause what I would call nanopain, like a pin prick.”

He believes the nanobomb holds great promise as a therapeutic agent for killing cancer cells, with particular emphasis on breast cancer cells, because its shockwave kills the cancerous cells as well as the biological pathways that carry instructions to generate additional cancerous cells and the small veins that nourish the diseased cells. Also, it can be spread over a wide area to create structural damage to the cancer cells that are close by.

The nanobombs are superior to a variety of current treatments because they are powerful, selective, non-invasive, nontoxic and can incorporate current technology, including microsurgery.

An advantage over other carbon nanotube treatments being considered by scientists is that with nanobombs, the carbon nanotubes are destroyed along with the cancer cells. Once the nanobombs are exploded and kill cancer cells, macrophages can effectively clear the cell debris and the exploded nanotube along with it.

Other treatments retain the carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles intact. If the material finds its way to the kidney or accumulates in the blood vessels, the nanoparticles might cause blockage and create problems, Panchapakesan said. Furthermore, the nanobomb route is probably the only way to use nanotubes without any cytotoxicity as the nanotubes are destroyed completely.

Current surgical techniques are not precise and cancerous cells are often left behind. In addition, cancers in some part of the body, such as arteries and veins, are sometimes considered inoperable. Nanobombs can be used to target any remaining cancerous cells and can be used in any part of the body, allowing the creation of nanobomb therapy for a wide variety of cancers.

Panchapakesan said the method is far better than modern chemotherapy, which is non-selective, kills normal cells as well as cancerous cells and leads to a decline in the quality of life for the patient. “This is valuable in patient management, pain management and overall quality of life,” he said.

Furthermore, Panchapakesan said, the nanobomb is a “very simple technique” and as such will likely prove to be “more robust and with the best chance to succeed.”

Panchapakesan added, “We are just getting started in this area. There is plenty of work ahead to successfully translate this into clinical medicine.”

In addition to treatment, he believes nanotechnology can provide new tools for cancer diagnosis through the use of tiny nanosensors.

“In the future, my vision is that people will have at-home kits that can detect cancer. After work they will be able to go to a clinic, be treated with nanobombs and go home,” Panchapakesan said. While these initial experiments are on breast cancer cells, he is also working to extend his method to prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer.

He also foresees nano-bio-robots or nano-surgical tools that can be placed inside the body to remove tumors in areas previously inaccessible using traditional treatment methods.

Panchapakesan said the team’s findings are the result of interdisciplinary research. “Different sciences come together to make this work,” he said, citing cancer biology, physics, electrical and computer engineering and chemistry. “Interdisciplinary research provides for fresh perspectives and brings about new ideas, which is probably the way to go in the future.”

Funding for the research was provided in part by the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.

Panchapakesan received his bachelor’s degree in materials engineering at Regional Engineering College in India and doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland at College Park in 2001 before joining the faculty at UD. His work is in the area of micro- and nano-electromechanical systems (MEMS),
nanotechnology and biomedical research.

Balaji Panchapakesan | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ece.udel.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nerves control the body’s bacterial community
26.09.2017 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Ageless ears? Elderly barn owls do not become hard of hearing
26.09.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The fastest light-driven current source

Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.

Graphene is up to the job

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nerves control the body’s bacterial community

26.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Four elements make 2-D optical platform

26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Goodbye, login. Hello, heart scan

26.09.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>