Recently, a team of nanoscientists, Jae-Hyun Lee, Jinwoo Cheon and colleagues of Yonsei University in Seoul, achieved a breakthrough in harnessing the power of magnetic nanoparticles for successfully eradicating all traces of tumor cells.
The experiment was conducted on cancer-afflicted mice in the laboratory. They were placed in a sporadic magnetic field, where the nanoparticles were automatically injected into the tumor, emitting heat to destroy it. Apparently, the adjacent healthy cells remained unharmed.
Over the recent years, nanomedicine applied in the treatment of tumors and cancer cells has shown promising success, except with a few drawbacks like allergic reactions.
With the discovery of this new method, the specially designed, magnetic nanoparticles “cook” tumor cells, completely killing them. Referred to as hyperthermia, heat is emitted that cooks the tumor cells, and all cells die at around 43°C. However, the notion of “cooking” the cancer cells without damaging nearby healthy cells remains a challenge.
Further, as stated, the injection of large dosages of magnetic nanoparticles has shown some severe allergic reactions. Additionally, experiments involving iron-oxide particles have produced “poor conversion efficiencies” and have thwarted practical applications.
The new technique involves “core-shell” configuration of the magnetic particles, where a softer, magnetic shell of one magnetic compound encapsulates a harder, magnetic core composed of several different magnetic compounds. The molecules are exchanged between the cores, causing the particles to interact more powerfully under a magnetic field.
In the experiments, the mice were grafted with brain tumor cells, and their abdomens were injected with the core-shell particles. The mice were cocooned in an induction coil device, producing an external magnetic field of suitable force. The tumor cells containing the core-shell nanoparticles responded to the alternating field by spawning heat up to ten times more compared to conventional methods.
Biopsies of the mice tissue reflected that all traces of the cancer had disappeared and no side effects were observed. Further, the intake of dosage was limited to 10% compared to previously conducted nanoparticle experiments. Subsequently, lower dosage yielded minimum allergic reactions to the particles.
For comparative study, the scientists also injected conventional anti-cancer drug, doxorubicin, in another group of mice. Initially, the drug could shrink the tumors, but by the end of the trial, they grew back up to four times their original size. Further, the tests with conventional iron-oxide nanoparticles showed no significant change in tumor size.
Earlier experiments with especially coated nanoparticles on cancerous tissue (prostate cancer) showed significant results. And, with this recent advancement, nanotech applications seem to be the latest weapon in fighting cancer. Nonetheless, these results must be duplicated in large numbers to provide conclusive proof, and before it becomes an available treatment option.
Drug release and remote control of single cell functions are the other applications of nanoparticle technology under the lens.
Should this new nanoparticle technology provide conclusive results, hopes of curing various forms of cancer could improve dramatically. The cost of the treatment is yet to be analysed.