Golden Nanocages Could Deliver Cancer Drugs to Tumors

80beatsBy Brett IsraelNov 4, 2009 3:10 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

to a tumor, say—and release them on cue, a sought-after goal of biomedical research.

Cancer treatment in the future could have dramatically reduced side effects if new nanotechnology research proves useful. Heat-sensitive nanoparticles might be able to deliver drugs to a targeted location in the body

One research team has developed nanoparticle cages that can be stuffed with tiny amounts of drugs that are only released on demand. These “nanocages” are cubes of gold, with sides about 50-billionths of a meter long and holes at each corner. They are easily made, using silver particles as a mold, and then coated with strands of a smart polymer. The polymer strands are normally extended and bushy and cover the holes in the cube. But when heated the strands collapse, leaving the holes open and allowing the drug inside to escape [The New York Times]. The researchers say they can engineer the nanocages to stick to tumors.

Doctors could release the packaged drugs whenever they want, just by zapping the cages inside the patient's body with near-infrared light. Near-infrared wavelengths are not greatly absorbed by body tissues, so light from a near-infrared laser could penetrate a couple of inches inside the body, but they are absorbed by gold [The New York Times]. Researchers could design the cages to fall apart at just a few degrees above normal body temperature, so they only spill their contents where the heat is applied; they could also

alter the drug's rate of release by adjusting the laser's intensity.

The technology, described in the journal Nature Materials, could help cut down on the side effects of today's treatments which are often caused by toxic drugs coursing through the body.

Related Content: DISCOVER: The Era of Nanoparticle Drugs Begins With Erection Cream 80beats: Nanoparticles + Stem Cells = Faster Healing Wounds 80beats: Did Chinese Factory Workers Die From Inhaling Nanoparticles? 80beats: Nanoscale Origami: A Box—With Lock & Key—Made Entirely of DNA 80beats: Nanoparticle “Smart Bomb” Could Stop Cancer’s Spread

Image: Younan Xia, Washington University in St. Louis

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2023 Kalmbach Media Co.