Metal-packing nanoparticles treat cancer, useful for MRI

The California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA has been busy these past few months trying to cure cancer. In July, we reported some good news for lab mice as nanoparticles made their tumors disappear. Now, in partnership with Korea's Yonsei University, they've achieved a two-for-one deal, with a method of using nanoparticles to release drugs and improve magnetic resonance imaging at the same time.

The nanomaterial is mesoporous, which means it contains tiny holes with diameters between two and 50 nanometers. Inside each pore are magnetic zinc-doped iron oxide nanocrystals. Then, little nanovalves hold the whole package into place until somebody on the outside applies a magnetic-field stimulus. When the valves open, the drug is released. As with all nanotech drug-delivery techniques, this method would target only cancer cells and leave the healthy ones alone.

UCLA Professor Jeffrey Zink says the magnetic core of the nanoparticles would make them useful as MRI contrast agents as well as for therapeutics. Next, the researchers will examine the effects in the body and decide if they can use the method to offer precise control over the location of delivered drugs. Their findings were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

- read the report from UCLA