Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

University of the Basque Country team develop nano-hydrogels capable of detecting cancer cells

18.02.2009
One of the problems in the treatment of cancers continues to be the lack of ability when it comes to discriminating between healthy and unhealthy cells, with the result being that all cells are affected non-specifically by the treatment.

The task of the New Materials and Supramolecular Spectroscopy research team at the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) has been to provide an answer to this problem by using intelligent nano-hydrogels - small particles capable of detecting diseased cells and releasing the medication only where required.

The hydrogels are polymers in the shape of a net. These hydrogels can swell up — by absorption — but cannot be dissolved in a liquid. This type of polymers has many and very diverse applications. For example, they can be used to make artificial muscle or for capturing heavy metals in waste water.

The New Materials and Supramolecular Spectroscopy research team at the Department of Physical Chemistry in the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the UPV/EHU is a pioneering one in the investigation of hydrogels and is led by Dr. Issa A. Katime, author of the only book published in Spanish on the topic. At present, they are using hydrogels to release pharmaceutical drugs in a controlled manner, for example, with cancer patients. Their goal was to design a particle capable of detecting where the cancer is. To this end, intelligent hydrogels capable of detecting changes in pH were developed — while blood generally has a pH of 7.4, in a zone where a cancer is located it drops to 4.7-5.2. In order to achieve this capability, these hydrogels are functionalised with folic acid, which has the ability to detect and to “trick” cancer cells, in such a way that these permit penetration of their membranes: under these conditions the hydrogel acts like a “Trojan horse”. Once in the cell interior, the change in pH favours the swelling of the nano-hydrogel and, thus, the release of the pharmaceutical drug.

But known hydrogels present a problem in their application with patients: their molecular size. The most effective manner to administer a pharmaceutical drug is intravenously — it gets to all parts in a very short time —, but very large molecules cannot be injected because they may cause obstruction or problems on the organism such as, for example, angina pectoris and even heart attack. The essential condition for their use in humans is that these particles have to be sufficiently small so as not to obstruct the veins and arteries and, besides, not be detected by the white corpuscles — otherwise the latter will attack the former and cause them to enlarge, giving rise to the previously mentioned problem. Thus, if these particles are small enough to pass through the membrane of the kidney, in the case of not detecting any cancer cells, they can be excreted in the urine.

The problem of size
The use of nanoparticles for these ends holds a number of difficulties: interweaving them in a controlled manner in order to create the nano-hydrogels; the spaces created within the structure of the net having the necessary size to transport the pharmaceutical drug; and all the particles having a similar size.

What happens is, on synthesising polymers, particles of very different sizes are obtained. If they are to be injected into the human body, these particles cannot be much greater than 15-30 nanometres. To this end, the research team perfected a technique that not only enabled the obtaining of nanoparticles, but also that they all were of similar size.

The final design of the nanoparticles was a success. Currently these are undergoing “in vivo” trials with research teams led by Dr. José María Teijón, Professor at the Faculty of Medicine at the Complutense University in Madrid and Dr. Antonio Quintana, Professor at the Faculty of Medicine at the UPV/EHU.

But these intelligent nano-hydrogels are not only useful for combating cancer. The application of nano-hydrogels with anti-tubercular pharmaceutical drugs is currently being investigated. Today, the most effective anti-tubercular drugs have to be injected several times daily, a problem in areas with poor access to health centres, as in developing countries.

This research team is designing a system with nano-hydrogels that contains a mixture of anti-tubercular pharmaceutical drugs and which release this medication in a controlled and constant manner over long periods of time. But, in this case, the hydrogel is charged with more than one substance, and it is consequently more difficult to control the speed and concentration with which the pharmaceutical drug is released. This will oblige the team to modify the structure of the hydrogel and adapt it to suit the need of the case in hand.

Lucia Alvarez | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.elhuyar.com
http://www.basqueresearch.com/berria_irakurri.asp?Berri_Kod=2088&hizk=I

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Are there sustainable solutions in dealing with dwindling phosphorus resources?
16.10.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Nutzierbiologie (FBN)

nachricht Strange undertakings: ant queens bury dead to prevent disease
13.10.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

Im Focus: Small collisions make big impact on Mercury's thin atmosphere

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

Conference Week RRR2017 on Renewable Resources from Wet and Rewetted Peatlands

28.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline

16.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

On the generation of solar spicules and Alfvenic waves

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>