Cancer-Fighting Nanoparticles Could Herald Real-Life Medical Innerspace


The first set of trials using nanoparticles to fight cancerous cells have completed, with works. The RNAi (RNA is a molecule found in our bodies similar to DNA) works by inhibiting expression of a gene called RRM2 which makes cancer cells multiply. The research team created the particles, called siRNA (small-interfering RNA) from two polymers and a protein that stops the RRM2 gene from becoming a protein, by sticking to the messenger RNA that carries the gene code to the cell’s protein-making machinery.


By mixing the components together in water, they assemble into nanoparticles which the team then administers into a patient’s bloodstream. The nanoparticles then circulate, looking out for “leaky” blood vessels that supply blood to the cancer tumors. When the nanoparticles are absorbed by the tumors, the siRNA is released. In the tests, they discovered that the higher dosage of siRNA that was put into cancer sufferers left more siRNA in the tumor cells. Result: the cancer cells cannot reproduce, and are killed where they lie.

The idea was actually mooted several years ago but, as with all medical research, the results are only being seen now. The published findings on the melanoma sufferers are the first known tests on humans, but last year the technique was successfully tested on ovarian cancer in mice with no side effects.

A word of warning: Anyone reading now with visions of a miniaturized Dennis Quaid bombing round a cancer patient’s inner workings should just hold that thought right there. Nanoparticles are not as sophisticated as nanobots, which would be able to move of their own volition to a designated spot in a patient’s body, but instead are swooshed around the body in the blood stream. However, if scientists are making such steps with nanoparticles, it won’t be long before nanobots will be used to fight diseases.

[Image Via Gizmodo]

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My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.