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A rendition of the special lipid nanoparticle, the inside is composed of a mixture of superparamagnetic iron particles, fluorescent quandum dots and anti-cancer drugs. The lipid structure is coated with F3, a special cancer-seeking protein, to help it home in on cancer cells and deliver its payload.  (Source: Ji-Ho Park, UCSD)
Like a stealth jet, new nanoparticles evade the body's defenses while delivering chemical markers and lethal toxins to cancer tumors

Studying and developing treatments for cancer is possibly one of the most publicized fields in medical science in current times. There has been a deluge of new and promising treatments recently using nano- and macro-scale particles to, via the bloodstream, deliver anti-tumor drugs or anti-tumor weapons directly to the site of cancerous growths.

Building on past breakthroughs with these microscopic particles as drug ferries, a group of researchers from UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara and MIT will shortly publish new work with a refined lipid-based transport system. While it is not the first lipid-based particle, it may be the first to be as robust as the researchers claim.

The specially engineered lipid structure, instead of simply carrying a toxin or heat bomb to cancer cells, is actually a multi-purpose unit. Coated with F3, a special cancer bloodhound protein, and filled with various imaging components (superparamagnetic iron nanoparticles for NMRIs and fluorescent “quantum dots” for fluorescence imaging) and anti-cancer drugs (doxorubicin), the tiny “motherships” were shown to evade the body's aggressive immune system for several hours while ferreting out cancer cells and delivering their payloads.

The structure is among the first to pack imaging and cancer killers in the same package.  The success surprised even the researchers.  Michael Sailor, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSD who headed the team of chemists, biologists and engineers, states, "The fact that the ships can carry very dissimilar payloads—a magnetic nanoparticle, a fluorescent quantum dot, and a small molecule drug—was a real surprise."

The research appears in the Germany-based chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie.

The team is continuing to explore the possibilities of specialized coatings for the lipid transports. They are looking to develop more proteins that will seek out certain types of tumors or organs in the body and deliver their tailored cargo to those sites.

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RE: something scares me
By HighWing on 9/16/2008 1:48:16 PM , Rating: 2
One other reason just came to mind

This has the potential to open up the flood gates for many other poisons/toxins that would normally be blocked by your body's immune system. If you could lets say deliver the common cold and let it run rampant through your body without it reacting, that even has the potential to be lethal

RE: something scares me
By Gzus666 on 9/16/2008 2:19:40 PM , Rating: 2
Once again, takes a lot of money to make your own, but mustard gas is dirt cheap. Why would you chance releasing a virus that could potentially kill you as well? Also, there are neutron bombs, which kill all the living, but leave everything else in tact. Hell, if you want to poison the water supply, it can be done with any over the counter poison, antifreeze, etc. etc., why would anyone spend all this money, time and research to do something that could be done much easier another way? Also, to my knowledge, poisons don't interact with the immune system in any way as it is.

RE: something scares me
By foolsgambit11 on 9/16/2008 2:53:24 PM , Rating: 2
You don't understand the immune system much, do you?

Let's say you successfully deliver a few cold viruses (virii?) into a person. Let's say this delivery vehicle manages to get the virus into your cells. Then those cold viruses would take over the cell and multiply. When they burst out, they would be regular cold viruses . They would be spotted by your immune system.

It is possible maybe that you could completely overwhelm somebody if you could get enough cold virii into them at once, such that the ensuing wave was too much for the immune system.

But mostly, you'd have to create a self-replicating virus that created the 'mothership' portion of the delivery vehicle itself for each successive generation.

Why not stick to infecting people with a terrible strain of HIV? It already does a pretty good job of tricking the immune system and shutting it down. If you're going to engineer a virus, I'd start with one that already does what you want, and try to speed up it's time line to make an effective weapon.

Of course, the problem with any self-replicating virus that evades the immune system is that it would then affect your own troops. So really, this doesn't seem like a good technique for combat operations.

Of course, you could put toxins into this lipid cage, but the immune system doesn't deal with toxins much anyway. Just use ricin. Way easier to make and wicked effective.

RE: something scares me
By Amiga500 on 9/16/2008 5:38:48 PM , Rating: 2
But mostly, you'd have to create a self-replicating virus that created the 'mothership' portion of the delivery vehicle itself for each successive generation.

Yeap, that would be the key thing that would need to be achieved. Self-replicating nanobots.

But, then your into the area of the extremely dangerous 'gloop' that would destroy the planet theories.

RE: something scares me
By tastyratz on 9/16/2008 3:35:31 PM , Rating: 2
This has HUGE potential for good things with cancer, etc... but it has definitely got huge potential for bad things as well. Brand new biological research and expensive to make... but only for so long.
Wait a few years and some terrorist cell will be making these with an inkjet printer. or something along the lines.
Don't get me wrong this is an excellent advancement and I am excited to see what develops from this.
The sad truth is that as humans this wont just be used for good. From Nuclear research we have developed an excellent clean source of power helping the environment as well as a terrible instrument of death. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

RE: something scares me
By PhoenixKnight on 9/16/2008 7:18:23 PM , Rating: 2
Once you really think about it, there really isn't very much potential to use this as a weapon. Doing so would be ridiculously impractical. Consider poisons such as ricin, which is cheap, easy to make (you could probably figure out how to make it online easily enough), is unaffected by the immune system, kills very swiftly in small doses, and is much easier to deliver to victims.

The only potential 'evil' use of this is to sectretly assassinate people, but even then there are plenty of cheaper, more common, easier to make, and more untraceable, poisons that can be used.

I suppose I suppose this could be used by a serial killer who, for some unknown reason, might want to deliver specific poisons to a specific part of victims' bodies. But then, how would that be any really worse than a psycho with a knife?

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