Feeds

Nano cancer-bombs and mini organs from MIT

Honey, I shrunk my liver...

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Scientists at MIT have developed remote-controlled nano particles that, with the push of a button, can deliver drugs directly to a tumour. The same research director has also found a way to build tiny human "livers" just 500 micrometres across. This work should lead to more reliable toxicity testing for new drugs.

According to Geoff von Maltzahn, post-doctoral researcher at the Harvard-MIT division of health sciences & technology (HST), the nano particles are first persuaded to clump together, which makes it easier to track their progress through a patient's body. Then, drug molecules are attached to the clumps of nanoparticles with DNA tethers and the whole lot is injected into the patient.

The nanoparticles are then tracked with an MRI scanner (hence the clumping). When they get to their target they are pulsed with an electromagnetic field at between 350-400kHz. This is harmless to the human body, but melts the tether and releases the drugs exactly where they are needed.

The breakthrough rests on a property of the nanoparticles: superparamagnetism. This characteristic causes them to give off heat when they are exposed to a magnetic field. This heat breaks the connection with the DNA tether, and allows the system to deliver the drugs.

Using DNA as the tether has another advantage: it makes it possible to choose the EM frequency that will break the bond, since longer or differently arranged strands will have different melting points. This means one clump of nanoparticles can carry multiple doses of drugs to several sites. If each drug has differently tuned DNA tethers, doctors can use a different EM frequency to deliver each dose.

The work is reported in the 15 November online issue of Advanced Materials. Lead author Dr Sangeeta Bhatia, an associate professor in the HST, says it could lead to the improved diagnosis and targeted treatment of cancer.

Bhatia and her researchers have also developed miniature livers which could pave the way for safer and more reliable drug toxicity testing. Much of current testing is done on liver cells from rats, which don't always respond the way human livers do, or on dying human cells, which might only survive for a few days in a lab.

HST postdoctoral associate Salman Khetani describes the work in a paper published in the 18 November online issue of Nature Biotechnology. Khetani used micropatterning technology (as with building a chip) to arrange the liver cells into colonies just 500 micrometres across.

The tiny clusters of cells behave much like real livers - they secrete the blood protein albumin, synthesise urea, and produce enzymes that break down drugs and toxins. The mini livers can also survive for up to six weeks, the researchers report. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.