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

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>