New manufacturing technique offers tailored delivery nanoparticles made of iron, silver and silicon

Iron-silver nanoparticles coated in a silicon shell--Courtesy of OIST

Research in drug delivery is shifting further and further to the nano scale, and while nanotechnology still hovers for the most part just short of the clinical stage, new techniques in manufacturing particles are crucial to bringing them to the next step.

At the Japanese Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, scientists have boiled nanoparticles down to their simplest, most effective parts so that they can be created in one step and with as few potentially dangerous chemicals as possible. Using an iron and silver core surrounded by a silicon shell, they have developed nanoparticles that are magnetic, biocompatible and ideal for imaging.

Each part of the particle plays an important role, and best of all for manufacturing purposes, the synthesis of these nanoparticles is only one step, using what the team calls a "versatile co-sputter gas-condensation technique," as published in the journal Nanoscale. And once the core is established, the nanoparticles can be tailor-made for different functions, including drug delivery.

Nanotechnology lab for creating biomedical particles--Courtesy of OIST

And for delivery purposes, the magnetic ability is important. The particles are considered superparamagnetic, which means they are only activated when a magnetic field is applied, according to the university, which would allow for the control of the delivery vehicles when they are inside the body. This is especially important when targeting tumors, which require precise local delivery to reduce the side effects of the toxic drugs.

"The ternary nanoparticles can be used in different applications, such as a contrast agent in MRI, biomagnetic sensors, hyperthermia for cancer treatment and magnetically targeted delivery and transfection," lead researcher Maria Benelmekki said in a statement.

The simplification of the nanoparticle manufacturing method would cut costs at several levels of the process and also reduce unwanted side effects during diagnosis and treatment.

- here's the OIST announcement
- and here's the abstract