|The "nanoferry" particle carries chemotherapy drugs until shone with a red light.--Courtesy of University of Munich|
Researchers in Germany have created nanoparticles that respond to red light as a trigger to release chemotherapy at the site of a tumor.
The University of Munich scientists developed the mesoporous silica dioxide particles called "nanoferries" that can carry chemotherapy treatments safely in the body and release them only after entering cancer cells, according to a study published in the journal Nano Letters. The novel part of the small-drug vehicles is that they also carry a small photosensitizer so, when they reach the offending cells via targeting ligands on their surface, they will release their payload when shone with a red light.
"That the photosensitizer responds to red rather than the blue light used in previous experiments is an important advance," said contributing author Veronika Weiss in a statement. "Red light is less toxic to cells and penetrates deeper into tissues."
The researchers tested the ligand on hepatoma and cervical cancer cells, according to a report in Nanowerk News. By targeting these cancers with an "intelligent" nanoparticle that recognizes and destroys only cancer cells, the risk of serious side effects associated with toxic chemotherapies was significantly lowered while allowing a high enough dose to be effective.
And the particles are adaptable: "The particles can be easily loaded with a variety of chemical agents and equipped with labels recognized by specific cell types," said author Christoph Bräuchle in a statement. "Thus they bind specifically to certain cancer cells and release their cargo only after uptake by the cell."