A nano cure for cancer

Early detection made possible

By Biplab Das
Published: Saturday 30 April 2011

IMAGINE a future when magnetic particles less than 100 nanometers in diameter will target, detect and capture images of cancer cells in your body.

A team from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, thinks such a future is possible. Researchers designed nanoparticles that can be used to transport drug molecules in the body. Iron oxide nanoparticles are emerging as coveted magnetic nanomaterials for their ability to enter the body without causing toxic effects and staying long in the blood circulatory system.

The researchers first produced iron oxide nanoparticles and modified them with chitosan, a polysaccharide found in shellfish and various organic compounds. The modified particles were then studded with dye molecules with fluoroscent property, to study their imaging capacity. Further they were tagged with folic acid for selective targeting of cancer cells.

Most human cancer cells express cell surface proteins or receptors that have an affinity for folic acid. To study the role of folic acid in targeting cancer cells, researchers cultured human cervical cancers cells and fibroblast cells (in animals), with the nanoparticles. It was found that folate receptors facilitate the entry of nanoparticles into the body.

This was why the cervical cancer cells had more nanoparticles than the normal cells. The fluorescent nanoparticles also showed their potential to be used as magnetic resonance imaging agents in capturing images of cancer cells. “These nanoparticles can be enhanced further with therapeutic properties.

This can be done by encapsulating drug molecules to design a multifunctional probe for detection as well as therapy in the near future,” said Panchanan Pramanik, lead researcher from IIT, Kharagpur. The study has been published in the February 17 issue of Nanoscale.

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