German researchers have developed porous nanocarriers that can penetrate cells and deliver their drug content on command, exploding when blasted with light.
As Materials Views reports, the scientists engineered porous, lipid-coated nanoparticles which, once in the body, get swallowed by cells. Once the carriers have been absorbed, however, the cell's defenses kick in and the capsules get encased in an endosome--a membrane that keeps them from their target cytoplasms.
To get around the issue, the scientists strapped the nanocarriers with a tiny explosive. When blasted with light, a molecule included in each capsule reacts by converting regular oxygen into electrically excited singlet oxygen, stimulating the cell and blowing up the carrier and endosome at once, releasing the enclosed drug into the now-defenseless cell, according to Materials Views.
The researchers' results, published in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials, demonstrated that the encapsulated drugs stay functional after the nano explosion, and the scientists believe the platform could be useful in the delivery of treatments that otherwise struggle to get through cellular membranes, including many cancer drugs.