Copper naturally assembles in bio component to make stable, scalable delivery structures

Dr. Mark DeCoster

A new copper-based biological nanomaterial discovered and assembled at Louisiana Tech University interacts with cells in the body and could ultimately be used as a targeted delivery tool to treat cancer and other diseases.

Self-assembling nano-composites are an important step forward in drug delivery and the nanotech arena in general. Because they naturally form in biological conditions--due to a positive charge in the metallic copper and the negative charge in the liquid, sulfur-containing cystine--they can be used to build structures with intricate features, scaling up or down to form an array of engineered "machines." These could be used to carry cancer drugs to a tumor and deliver them precisely with fewer side effects.

The scientists published the study in the Journal of Visualized Experiments.

The biocomposite, as created by the reaction of copper nanoparticles and cystine (a component of DNA), is highly stable in both dry and liquid form, the scientists wrote in an abstract.

"We are currently investigating how this new material interacts with cells," lead author Mark DeCoster said in a statement. "It may be used, for example for drug delivery, which could be used in theory for fighting diseases such as cancer. Also, as a result of the copper component that we used, there could be some interesting electronics, energy, or optics applications that could impact consumer products. In addition, copper has some interesting and useful antimicrobial features."

DeCoster and his team are working on the possible applications for the copper composites, from the biomedical to the environmental to the industrial.

"This is of benefit because it allows us to work with individual structures in order to separate or modify them chemically," DeCoster said. "When materials stick together and clump, as many do, it is much harder to work with them in a logical way. Both of these aspects, however, fit with our hypothesis that the self-assembly that we have discovered is putting positively charged copper together with negatively charged sulfur-containing cystine."

- here's the LTU report
- and here's the abstract