Next-gen nanoparticle can image, deliver, heat and destroy

At Canada's Ontario Cancer Institute, they're busy building a better nanomaterial for drug delivery. Or, rather, busy enabling the new material to assemble itself. They're called porphysomes, and they self-assemble from conjugates of lipids and porphyrins. Scientist Gang Zheng tells Chemical & Engineering News that porphysomes are a kind of next-generation of nanoparticle that can do it all--image, deliver drugs to and heat and destroy cancer cells. That's a step up from previous generations, since these little babies can do it all without other options having to be tacked on.

Porphysomes are better than quantum dots--another nanomaterial used as imaging agents--because porphysomes are biodegradable and nontoxic. For quantum dots, the jury is still out, but many studies have shown them to be toxic. Zheng also says that his new model is better than liposomes--also used for drug delivery--because porphysomes can absorb near-infrared light, enabling them to become light-activated while in the body, C&E News reports.

The Canadian researchers demonstrated this last feature in mice. They converted light energy to local thermal energy, with the result that tumors completely disappeared. And some of the thermal energy creates acoustic waves, making for promising imaging agents. "This could have a clinical application in identification of sentinel lymph nodes," Michael S. Patterson, a researcher at McMaster University in Ontario, told C&E News.

Zheng is convinced that his porphysomes will become a useful tool in personalized medicine, since it's a kind of Swiss Army Knife of nanoparticles--able to accomplish a great deal in one package.

- read more in Chemical & Engineering News