Gold nanoparticles bring scientists closer to a cancer treatment

Published: 5-Jul-2011

Smart nanomaterials can disrupt blood supply to tumours

Scientists at the University of Southampton in the UK have developed smart nanomaterials, which can disrupt the blood supply to cancerous tumours.

A team of researchers, led by physics lecturer Dr Antonios Kanaras, showed that a small dose of gold nanoparticles could activate or inhibit genes that are involved in angiogenesis – a complex process responsible for the supply of oxygen and nutrients to most types of cancer.

‘The peptide-functionalised gold nanoparticles that we synthesised are very effective in the deliberate activation or inhibition of angiogenic genes,’ said Dr Kanaras.

The team went a step further to control the degree of damage to the endothelial cells using laser illumination. Endothelial cells construct the interior of blood vessels and play a pivotal role in angiogenesis.

The researchers also found that the gold particles could be used in cellular nanosurgery.

‘We have found that gold nanoparticles can have a dual role in cellular manipulation. Applying laser irradiation, we can use the nanoparticles either to destroy endothelial cells, as a measure to cut the blood supply to tumours, or to deliberately open up the cellular membrane in order to deliver a drug efficiently,’ added Dr Kanaras.

The researchers are almost midway through their research and have published two related papers (NanoLett. 2011, 11 (3), 1358–1363; Small 2011, 7, No. 3, 388–394), with another submitted for publication and four more planned throughout 2011. Their aim is to develop a complete nanotechnology toolkit to manipulate angiogenesis. To make this a reality within five to ten years they are continuing to seek funding.

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