Its a bitter irony of cancer therapy: treatments powerful enough to kill tumor cells also harm healthy ones, causing side effects that diminish the quality of the lives that are saved.
Nanoparticles depicted here among cells (green) show potential as targeted anti-cancer therapeutics.
Image: Paul Trombley, University of Michigan Center for Biologic Nanotechnology
Researchers at the University of Michigans Center for Biologic Nanotechnology hope to prevent that problem by developing "smart" drug delivery devices that will knock out cancer cells with lethal doses, leaving normal cells unharmed, and even reporting back on their success. A graduate student involved in the multidisciplinary project will discuss her recent work---zeroing in on characteristics that make the devices most effective---at a meeting of the American Physical Society in Montreal, Quebec, March 23.
The U-M group is using lab-made molecules called dendrimers, also known as nanoparticles, as the backbones of their delivery system. Dendrimers are tiny spheres whose width is ten thousand times smaller than the thickness of a human hair, explains physics doctoral student Almut Mecke. "These spheres have all sorts of loose ends where you can attach things---for example, a targeting agent that can recognize a cancer cell and distinguish it from a healthy cell. You can also attach the drug that actually kills the cancer cells. If you have both of these functions on the same molecule, then you have a smart drug that knows which cells to attack."
Nancy Ross Flanigan | University of Michigan
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Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
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