Researchers are developing nanomedicine therapy techniques to direct treatment directly to diseased cells, minimizing the damage to healthy tissue that occur in current methods such as radiation therapy cause. Particles are engineered so that they are attracted to diseased cells, which allows direct treatment of those cells. This technique reduces damage to healthy cells in the body.
Some nanomedicine therapy techniques are only imagined, while others are at various stages of testing, or actually being used today. The following survey of nanomedicine therapy applications introduces many of these techniques.
Targeted heat therapy is being developed to destroy breast cancer tumors. In this method antibodies that are strongly attracted to proteins produced in one type of breast cancer cell are attached to nanotubes, causing the nanotubes to accumulate at the tumor. Infrared light from a laser is absorbed by the nanotubes and produces heat that incinerates the tumor.
A method that targets individual cancer cells inserts gold nanoparticles into the cells, then shines a laser on the nanoparticles. The heat concentrated by the gold nanoparticle causes a "nanobubble" that explodes the cancer cells. Lab tests showed that when antibodies that are attracted to certain cancer cells were attached to the gold nanoparticles the method was effect in destroying the cancer cells. Another set of lab tests showed that the method also worked for arterial plaque.
A method to make radiation therapy more effect in fighting prostate cancer is using radioactive gold nanoparticles attached to a molecule that is attracted to prostate tumor cells. Researchers believe that this method will help concentrate the radioactive nanoparticles at the cancer tumors, allowing treatment of the tumors with minimal damage to healthy tissue.
Magnetic nanoparticles that attach to cancer cells in the blood stream may allow the cancer cells to be removed before they establish new tumors.
Nanofibers can stimulate the production of cartilage in damaged joints. Three different approaches to the use of nanofibers to stimulate cartilage are being taken by researchers at John Hopkins University, at Northwestern University and at the University of Pennsylvania.
Nanoparticles, when activated by x-rays, that generate electrons that cause the destruction of cancer cells to which they have attached themselves. This is intended to be used in place of radiation therapy with much less damage to healthy tissue.
Researchers have found that aluminosilicate nanoparticles can reduce bleeding in trauma patients with external wounds by activating the blood clotting mechanism, causing blood in a wound to clot quickly. Z-Medica is producing a medical gauze that uses aluminosilicate nanoparticles for use on external wounds. For trauma patients with internal bleeding another way to reduce the blood loss is needed. Researchers at Chase Western Reserve University are developing polymer nanoparticles that act as synthetic platelets. Lab tests have shown that injection of these synthetic platelets significantly reduces blood loss.
Buckyballs may be used to trap free radicals generated during an allergic reaction and block the inflammation that results from an allergic reaction.
Researchers are using carbon nanotubes to change adult stem cells into a type of cell that may help heal damaged heart tissue.
One heat therapy to destroy cancer tumors using nanoparticles is called AuroShell™. The AuroShell™ nanoparticles circulate through a patients bloodstream, exiting where the blood vessels are leaking at the site of cancer tumors. Once the nanoparticles accumulate at the tumor the AuroShell™ nanoparticles are used to concentrate the heat from infrared light to destroy cancer cells with minimal damage to surrounding healthy cells. For a good visual illustration of this process, click here.
A method to regrow the pulp inside teeth, allowing the tissue inside decayed teeth to be regenerated is being developed. The method uses nanofibers that self assemble into a scaffold which is seeded with stem cells. The stem cells stimulate the growth of new tissue while the scaffold provides a framework for the tissue to grow on.
A nanoparticle cream that releases nitric oxide gas to fight staph infections.