Nano-particles Synergistically and Selectively target Brain Cancer Cells

Researchers at the University of Johns Hopkins have developed a novel approach to target tumorous brain cells by introducing biodegradable nano-particles. The nano-particles are programmed with genes that selectively stimulate cell death in the cancer cells in a ‘suicide’ effort and also preserve the healthy brain cells. Glioblastomas were chosen to be cancer cell of choice because of their aggressive nature that almost always results in death to the host with the logic that if this type of cancer could be extinguished, any cancer cells could be targeted.

Biodegradable plastic composed the outer layer of the nano-particle and the inner content is variable to the specific gene needed. The mailability of the plastic layer allowed the researchers to mold the structure of the nano-particle as well as altering its affinity to water, which provides a high level of customization to target specific cells. To test this method, the study utilized a test strand of DNA that showed up as fluorescent in the presence of cancerous cells after determining which shape of biodegradable plastic is conducive for cancer cell targeting.

Illustration of selective targeting of nano-particles.

Illustration of selective targeting of nano-particles.

Mice with human brain cancer were used as models to test how effective the nano-particles could target tumorous brain cells, and the results were extremely promising: Mice used as controls for the experiment had almost no signs of fluorescence and mice with brain cancer had large quantities of staining. The ability to selectively target cancerous brain cells is giant advancement in cancer cell targeting and can lead to many treatments.

The researchers hope to employ this nano-particle strategy synergistically during neurosurgery to kill off the remaining cancerous brain cells, because of the built in defenses of the body to prevent particles in the blood from reaching the brain. Even though the nano-particles have shown success in selectively targeting the cancerous cells, there is still a rare chance of them attacking a healthy cell. In order to cause this occurrence to have minimal impact, the DNA selected for the nano-particle must not produce an effect when in contact with a healthy cell.

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