Gold nanospheres used to fry cancer cells

March 23rd, 2009 - 6:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 23 (IANS) Hollow gold nanospheres, developed by researchers for the first time and smaller than finest dust flecks, can track and fry cancer cells.
These nanospheres are emerging as a minimally invasive treatment for malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Melanoma causes more than 8,000 deaths annually in the US alone and is on the increase globally.

These hollow spheres are equipped with a special “peptide”. The protein fragment draws the nanospheres directly to melanoma cells, while avoiding healthy skin cells.

Accumulating inside the cancer, nanospheres heat up when exposed to near-infrared light, which penetrates deeply through the surface of the skin.

In recent studies in mice, the nanospheres did eight times greater damage to skin tumours than the same ones without peptides, the researchers say.

“This technique is very promising and exciting,” explained study co-author Jin Zhang, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).

“It’s basically like putting a cancer cell in hot water and boiling it to death. The more heat the metal nanospheres generate, the better,” Zhang adds, according to an UCSC release.

The next step is to try the nanospheres in humans, Zhang says. This requires extensive pre-clinical toxicity studies. The mice study is the first step, and there is a long way to go before it can be put into clinical practice, Li says.

These findings were presented at the American Chemical Society.

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