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Scientists fish for tumors with nanoworms.

Another nanoscale anti-cancer device has arrived on the growing scene. Similar to MIT's sticky nanoparticles, the new treatment would involve a sticky "nanoworm." The particles, developed jointly by scientists at the Universities of California at San Diego and Santa Barbara along with MIT, resembles a gummi worm made of small spheres.

The worms are made from spherical nanoparticles of iron oxide, joined together and coated with a polymer derived from dextran. Each worm consists of eight nanoparticles and measures approximately 30 nanometers in length. That makes them about three million times smaller than their earthworm brethren.

There are multiple advantages in using the new nanoworms over single particle approaches for locating and delivering cancer destroying drugs directly to tumors. The structure allows the worms to slip through the bloodstream with less opposition than single particles, which are more easily detected and driven out by the body's immune system functions. This keeps them in the body longer, giving them more time to find targets.

Another advantage is the amount of anti-cancer toxins a single worm can carry versus a single particle. Obviously by having more surface area, more toxins could be attached, thus serving target tumors a more lethal dose. Not only could more drug be attached, but more of the peptide which causes the particles to stick to the tumors, called F3, can share the surface, making them more likely to lock on when a tumor is located.

Yet another is that the worms' construction material, iron oxide, has the quality of being superparamagnetic, which causes them to light up an MRI scan in areas of suspicion. Even if only one of the worms finds a certain target, it is more easily detected than single superparamagnetic particles, like MIT's, because of its size.

While the results of the group's work are impressive, they are still researching different ways to attach anti-cancer drugs to the nanoworms, as well creating special chemicals that will allow administers to target specific types of tumors. Once a tethering method is found, it could allow the worms to be even more lethal to cancer cells than MIT's nanoparticle or Rensselaer Polytechnic's nanotube methods.

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The Biggest Thing...
By JasonMick on 5/7/2008 9:23:12 AM , Rating: 3
With this or a variety of other methods, including the RF/Kazius method I wrote on is finding the protein markers on cancer cells for the drug delivers/particles to bind to.

The real challenge is going to be to catalog every protein marker/surface protein on various types of cancerous cells and compare them against those of normal cells, in hopes of finding ones unique to cancer. This is why projects like Folding At Home remain so valuable.

Cancer won't be cured overnight, it will be cured over years and thouands of catalogued results.

RE: The Biggest Thing...
By tmouse on 5/7/2008 9:37:15 AM , Rating: 3
Argh you beat me to it. ; )

RE: The Biggest Thing...
By paydirt on 5/8/2008 9:11:49 AM , Rating: 2
Folding At Home studies more about how proteins fold and misfold (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's). Rosetta At Home is more into figuring out how to efficiently catalog folded protein structures (cancer, malaria, HIV) [and they are into using computers to create designer proteins for drug delivery].

RE: The Biggest Thing...
By MRwizard on 5/8/2008 12:09:45 AM , Rating: 2
This is very exciting. With all these innovative ways of "killing" the cancer cells, I'm sure they'll be able to find a way of using almost the same methods on other diseases such as HIV and TB. Although, I;ve only read about curing cancer so far

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