Nanoparticles take a ride on T-cells for targeted cancer attacks

The true beauty of nanotechnology can be found not in size, but in simplicity. The simplicity of nanoparticle cancer drug-delivery solutions can be found in the work of a team of MIT researchers, led by Darrell Irvine.

Recently, researchers have been studying T-cells for cancer research, but they are finding difficulty engineering enough T-cells to attack only harmful cancer cells without irreparable damage to the body. Past drugs that encourage T-cell growth can also cause heart and lung failure. Now, researchers are trying to using gene modification to alter T-cells in the lab.

Irvine and his team have a simpler solution. They've created drug-carrying pouches made of fatty membranes that can be attached to sulfur-containing molecules found on the T-cell surface. Their study, published in the Aug. 15 edition of Nature Medicine, tried this approach on mice. MIT injected the mice with T-cells loaded up with about 100 pouches each containing interleukins IL-15 and IL-21. 

The mice treated injected with the T-cells that carried the nanoparticle backpacks lived. The others, not so much.

Irvine's approach to delivering the adjuvant drugs is both simple and innovative, says Glenn Dranoff, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in an article produced by MIT's news office. "Here, the possibility of just attaching a carefully engineered nanoparticle to the surface of cells could be a much simpler procedure."

- read the rundown from MIT's news service
- or glance at the abstract in Nature Medicine