Just where do those used up cancer killers go when they're done?

Though nanoparticles are being hailed by many as the future of science -- an imminent revolutionary evolution in everything from medicine to energy to construction -- it is still poorly understood how nanoparticles will get along with biological systems like the human body over the course of time. Previous studies have shown that nanoparticles can slip into the body through skin and numerous other uses in medicine involve injecting doped particles directly into the blood stream. But where do they end up once their usefulness is expended and how or do they even get eliminated from the body?

A research project at North Carolina State University begun in November of 2009 and funded by the National Institute of Health has born some fruit where it concerns specific nanoparticles -- fullerenes, a group of carbon-based molecules which includes buckyballs and nanotubes -- and how they react with different types of biological components. The group, led by Dr. Nancy Monteiro-Riviere, will publish their first results in the upcoming August 23rd online edition of Nature Nanotechnology. An abstract is available now in the August 15th online edition.

The NCSU group used a chemical process based on methods pioneered by Dr. Xin-Riu Xia, also of NCSU, to screen the fullerenes and understand how their different surfaces and charges would react to various amino acids and proteins. This process will help to understand where and how the particles might end up in the body and how they might be expelled, and how different particles might be used to further accelerate in-vitro drug delivery systems.

Further avenues of study for the project include how nanoparticles are absorbed in circumstances other than direct injection, such as orally or through abraded skin.

The work the NCSU group has undertaken should help medical science to refine future nanotech-based treatments by giving them a means to judge how a particle is affected once inside the body in terms of susceptibility to binding and changing toxicity after the particle has bonded to various cells, as well as where they can expect the particles to end up once their usefulness has been expended.

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