Nanomedicine: A New Frontier in Medicine Offers a Promising Alternative to Chemotherapy
A team of University of Central Florida research scientists, led by Asst. Prof. J. Manuel Perez, has developed what could become an alternative treatment to chemotherapy for patients diagnosed with cancer. The research centered on engineered nanoparticles designed to eliminate tumors in the body.
The researchers used Taxol, a well-known chemotherapeutic drug, which under normal conditions results in the degradation of both cancerous and non-cancerous cells. Perez and his team engineered nanoparticles that increase the specificity of the drug targeting it only to cancerous cells.
In order to increase the specificity of the drug the researchers attached folic acid (vitamin B9) to the nanoparticles. Cancer cells consume high amounts of folic acid and thus preferentially take up the engineered nanoparticles. More specifically, "cancer cells in the tumor connect with the engineered nanoparticles via cell receptors that can be regarded as "doors" or "docking stations." The nanoparticles can then enter the cell and release their therapeutic cargo" (ScienceDaily, June 17, 2009). These engineered nanoparticles also enable physicians to observe the actual effects of the treatment. They are tagged with a fluorescent dye and attached to an iron oxide magnetic core, which can be detected using standard imaging techniques
Furthermore, these nanoparticles including the iron magnetic oxide core without the drug are also used to detect the presence of cancer using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques. If cancer is not present in the body, the liver degrades and detoxifies the nanoparticles. The body then reabsorbs and makes use of the remaining iron from the iron oxide magnetic core once attached to the nanoparticles.
"What's unique about our work is that the nanoparticle has a dual role, as a diagnostic and therapeutic agent in a biodegradable and biocompatible vehicle", comments Dr. Perez.
"New Nanoparticles Could Lead to End of Chemotherapy"