Cancer cells can be detected then destroyed using a nanostructure designed by South Korean researchers.
Bong Hyun Chung and colleagues at the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology in Daejeon base their structures on hollow gold nanoparticles.
The modified gold nanoparticles seek out and destroy cancer cells
The structures have antibodies on their surface which allow them to bind to cancer cells. They also contain gadolinium, which acts as a molecular resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agent and allows the cells to be seen. When Chung shone an infrared laser on the gold nanoparticles, the heat that formed destroyed the surrounding cancer cells.
"The nanostructures overcome the drawbacks of commonly-used MRI contrast agents"
The gold nanostructures overcome the drawbacks of commonly-used iron oxide MRI contrast agents, suggests Chung. Iron can lead to interference and negative contrast effects, causing errors in diagnosis. The design of the gold nanostructures leads to an enhanced signal and better diagnosis, he says.
Chung's approach is non-invasive and is likely to be effective in the treatment of early-stage cancers because it treats a specific area, unlike chemotherapy which affects the whole body. In the future 'the nanoparticles may be used for the analysis of cancer dissection in surgery', says Chung.