Nanobots To The Rescue

Nanotechnology is blowing doors down in just about every scientific field, but nowhere more dramatically than in medicine. The latest “good thing to come in a small package” are tiny "vehicles," just 100 nanometers in diameter, making them almost 800 times finer than a human hair. A research team working out of Australia and China have crafted these to deliver cancer-fighting drugs to kill specific cells without harming healthy cells in the vicinity.

Professor Colin Raston from Flinders University in South Australia is co-leading the research and claims the new system will revolutionize how cancer will be treated.

“It is the holy grail of medicine,” Dr. Raston said. “The way we have designed the vehicle is that you can use it for any number of different cancer cells or combination of different cancer cells. You can load it up and target them using specific types of drugs, which we know are for those particular cancers.”

These nanotech vehicles are almost 800 times finer than a human hair, the “ideal size for targeting tumors.” They are delivered with chemotherapy drugs, and contain folate molecules that seek out and bind to cancer cells. The cancer cells have have lower pH levels than healthy cells. When the “smart package” strikes the higher pH cell, it becomes unstable and drops off the anti-cancer drug inside.

“The problem with conventional therapy is most of it ends up in sewage,” Dr. Raston said. “That's a problem, but if you have targeting drug therapy then you only need a small amount of the drug. This way you are not polluting the sewage and you are also shutting down all the side effects.”

Dr. Raston indicated that the research so far had been all cell work, but that researchers were almost ready to advance to the next phase of development.

The proof of concept paper, entitled Paclitaxel-loaded Phosphonated Calixarene Nanovesicles as a Modular Drug Delivery Platform has been published in Scientific Reports.