Soon, gold nanoparticles to deliver cancer medications

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Washington: A team of researchers at the have discovered a method of assembling "building blocks" of gold nanoparticles as the vehicle to deliver cancer medications or cancer-identifying markers directly into cancerous tumors.

Warren Chan, Professor at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research (CCBR), said that to get materials into a tumor they need to be a certain size.

He said that the tumors are characterized by leaky vessels with holes roughly 50 - 500 nanometers in size, depending on the tumor type and stage. The goal is to deliver particles small enough to get through the holes and 'hang out' in the tumor's space for the particles to treat or image the cancer. If particle is too large, it can't get in, but if the particle is too small, it leaves the tumor very quickly.

Chan and his researchers solved this problem by creating modular structures 'glued' together with DNA.

Leo Chou , a 5th year PhD student at IBBME and first author of the paper, said that they're using a 'molecular assembly' model - taking pieces of materials that we can now fabricate accurately and organizing them into precise architectures, like putting LEGO blocks together.

He said that the major advantage of this design strategy is that it is highly modular, which allows you to 'swap' components in and out. This makes it very easy to create systems with multiple functions, or screen a large library of nanostructures for desirable biological behaviors.

The study has been published in the Nature Nanotechnology.