Nanomachine Attacks Cancer from the Inside

Maria Fontanazza

June 1, 2008

2 Min Read
Nanomachine Attacks Cancer from the Inside


Jeffrey Zink, Eunshil Choi, Jie Lu, and Fuyu Tamanoi (left to right) show a test tube with nanoimpellers.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), have created a light-powered nano­machine that can kill cancer cells from inside a living cell. The nano­impeller stores drugs inside of pores and delivers them upon exposure to light.

The device was developed at the Nano Machine Center at UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute. Center codirectors Jeffrey Zink and Fuyu Tamanoi demonstrated the nanoimpeller in a study published in the March 31 online edition of the nanoscience journal Small.

“We developed a mechanism that releases small molecules in aqueous and biological environments during exposure to light,” Zink said in a UCLA news release. “The nanomachines are positioned in molecular-sized pores inside of spherical particles and function in aqueous and biological environments.”

To create a system that could both store and release molecules from pores, the team at needed nanomaterials to serve as a container and a photo­activated moving component. They used mesoporous silica nano­particles and coated the insides of the pores with the chemical azobenzene.

The researchers delivered nano­particles to human cancer cells in vitro, which were taken up in the dark. Once light was aimed at the particles, the impeller was activated and released the contents. The nanoimpeller can also be strictly controlled based on light intensity, excitation time, and wavelength.

“The achievement here is gaining precise control of the amount of drugs that are released by controlling the light exposure,” said Tamanoi. “Controlled release to a specific location is the key issue, and the release is only activated by where the light is shining.”

According to Zink and Tamanoi, the system has possible uses for treating colon and stomach cancers. The next step is to show that the nanomachine can slow tumor growth.

Copyright ©2008 Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry

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