Cancer Healing Nanoparticles


via Phys


For years cancer has been one of the most deadly diseases known by mankind. Even worse, while we have ways to treat cancer, we have no idea how to cure it. That’s where nanoparticles and nanotechnology might save the day. Nanotechnology is around one hundred to ten thousand times smaller than human cells. Since they are so small, they can easily enter cells as well as navigate through blood vessels. They use the blood in these vessels to carry themselves throughout the body quickly and can reach almost anywhere in the body with ease. From inside cells they can do many things, such as detecting the presence of cancer to treating cancer cells with various helpful drugs.

Tumor cells, the cells that are mainly responsible for cancer, require large amounts of oxygen and nutrients. Systems of blood vessels grow to help feed the cells as the tumor mass grows. Since blood vessels have to grow quickly, the body does a poor job of generating them and it creates large and leaky pores in the tumor cells, through which large and harmful nanoparticles can enter. This also means that helpful nanoparticles can enter as well, such as nanotechnology carrying medication to treat the tumor cells. However, this medication does not stay in the blood for long. To fix this scientists developed a method of coating nano-drugs with PEG (polyethylene glycol). PEG makes the nanoparticles water-soluble, meaning they dissolve into water faster.

One example of nano-drugs used in treating cancer is called TNF (tumor necrosis factor alpha). TNF is a tumor killing nano-particle, which attaches itself to the tumor cells and kills them. However, the immune system in a person’s body recognizes TNF as an invading particle and attempts to get rid of it. To prevent this from happening TNF is coated in PEG-THIOL (tumor necrosis factor alpha), which hides TNF from the immune system. There are many other forms of nanoparticles used in chemotherapy, such as CRLX101, which carries various forms of other nano-drugs into the body all disguised as the CRLX101 nanoparticle. Another lab is developing a nanoparticle that absorbed light, and then when inside the body turns the light energy into heat to kill the tumor cells.

There are many different ways scientists are using nanotechnology to help detect, treat, and cure cancer. This branch of science has come a long way, and some labs are beginning to create types of nano-drugs that were previously unheard of in the science community. And nanotechnology can be used to cure other diseases too. If nanotechnology continues to advance, then maybe humanity will be able to look forward to a future where disease was a thing of the past.