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22 March 2011 National Post

Battling Cancer With Nanoparticles

The new nanoparticle can use both heat and light to attack and image tumours
The new nanoparticle can use both heat and light to attack and image tumours.
Image Credit: Med India.

Like stem cell-fuelled regenerative medicine and genetic therapy, nanotechnology offers immense potential for improving the health of humans – and little practical realization of that promise yet. Still, Toronto scientists have offered a fascinating glimpse of what the nano field might accomplish, unveiling a new nanoparticle they say can use both heat and light to attack and image tumours.

Nanotechnology involves engineering molecular-scale substances that can be used in a variety of applications, from cosmetics to food packaging and paint. Scientists hope it could also be used to find cancers earlier, treat them more effectively and make therapies less harmful to healthy tissue. In a paper just published in the journal Nature Materials, researchers at Princess Margaret say they have developed a nanoparticle that is completely non-toxic and biodegradable, and 'nimble' in its ability to employ light and heat to treat cancer and deliver drugs.

The particle was created by combining natural chlorophyl and lipid molecules and is like a water balloon that could be filled with drugs to treat tumors in a targetted way, scientists led by Dr. Gang Zheng, say.

The particles can absorb light efficiently, so that a laser fired at an accumulation of them will cause the particles to heat up and destroy the tumour they are targetting, according to the researchers. The nanoparticle can also be used for “photoacoustic imaging,” which combines light and sound to generate a high-resolution image of the tumor.

Said Dr. Zheng in a statement put out by the hospital:

"There are many nanoparticles out there, but this one is the complete package, a kind of one-stop shopping for various types of cancer imaging and treatment options that can now be mixed and matched in ways previously unimaginable. The unprecedented safety of this nanoparticle in the body is the icing on the cake."

Source: National Post /...

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