CHICAGO, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Researchers at Northwestern University (NU) have developed a way to determine whether or not single drug-delivery nanoparticles will successfully hit their intended targets of cancer biomarkers by simply analyzing each nanoparticle's distinct movements in real time.
By studying drug-loaded gold nanostars on cancer cell membranes, the researchers found that nanostars designed to target cancer biomarkers transited over larger areas and rotated much faster than their non-targeting counterparts.
Even when surrounded by non-specifically adhered proteins, the targeting nanostars maintained their distinct, signature movements, which suggest that their targeting ability remains uninhibited.
The medical field has long been searching for alternatives to current cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, which harm healthy tissues in addition to diseased cells. Although these are effective ways to treat cancer, they carry risks of painful or even dangerous side effects.
By delivering drugs directly into the diseased area, instead of blasting the whole body with treatment, targeted delivery systems result in fewer side effects than current treatment methods.
"The selective delivery of therapeutic agents to cancer tumors is a major goal in medicine to avoid side effects," said Teri Odom, a professor of chemistry at NU's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, who led the study. "Gold nanoparticles have emerged as promising drug-delivery vehicles that can be synthesized with designer characteristics for targeting cancer cells."
"Moving forward, this information can be used to compare how different nanoparticle characteristics, such as particle size, shape and surface chemistry, can improve the design of nanoparticles as targeting, drug-delivery agents," said Odom.
The study was published Friday in the journal ACS Nano.