At temperatures above 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit) the cells begin to die as the proteins whose proper functioning maintains them begin to unfold.
In the nanocage-injected mice, the skin surface temperature increased rapidly from 32 degrees Celsius to 54 degrees C (129 degrees F).
In the buffer-injected mice, however, the surface temperature remained below 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
To see what effect this heating had on the tumors, the mice were injected with a radioactive tracer incorporated in a molecule similar to glucose, the main energy source in the body. Positron emission and computerized tomography (PET and CT) scans were used to record the concentration of the glucose lookalike in body tissues; the higher the glucose uptake, the greater the metabolic activity.
The tumors of nanocage-injected mice were significantly fainter on the PET scans than those of buffer-injected mice, indicating that many tumor cells were no longer functioning.
The tumors in the nanocage-treated mice were later found to have marked histological signs of cellular damage.
The scientists have just received a five-year, $2,129,873 grant from the National Cancer Institute to continue their work with photothermal therapy.
Despite their results, Xia is dissatisfied with passive targeting. Although the tumors took up enough gold nanocages to give them a black cast, only 6 percent of the injected particles accumulated at the tumor site.
Xia would like that number to be closer to 40 percent so that fewer particles would have to be injected. He plans to attach tailor-made ligands to the nanocages that recognize and lock onto receptors on the surface of the tumor cells.
In addition to designing nanocages that actively target the tumor cells, the team is considering loading the hollow particle
|Contact: Diana Lutz|
Washington University in St. Louis