Multitasking nanomaterials - When nanotech meets biotech

Nanomaterials are capable of doing many things inside the body, since their size gives them direct access to cells, both healthy and diseased. So, on these pages you'll read many stories about nanoparticles as drug-delivery devices, as disease detectors, as contrast agents, as a therapeutic. Some researchers are asking why not design them as a kind of Swiss Army Knife and have them perform many functions. For example, dendrimers, with their many tendrils, are well-suited to this kind of multitasking work.

The California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, in partnership with Korea's Yonsei University, they've achieved a two-for-one deal, with a method of using nanoparticles to release drugs and improve magnetic resonance imaging at the same time. The nanomaterial is mesoporous, which means it contains tiny holes with diameters between two and 50 nanometers. Inside each pore are magnetic zinc-doped iron oxide nanocrystals. Then, little nanovalves hold the whole package into place until somebody on the outside applies a magnetic-field stimulus. When the valves open, the drug is released. As with all nanotech drug-delivery techniques, this method would target only cancer cells and leave the healthy ones alone.

UCLA Professor Jeffrey Zink says the magnetic core of the nanoparticles would make them useful as MRI contrast agents as well as for therapeutics. Next, the researchers will examine the effects in the body and decide if they can use the method to offer precise control over the location of delivered drugs. Article

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. Article

Multitasking nanomaterials - When nanotech meets biotech

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