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University of Delaware researchers develop cancer 'nanobomb'

University of Delaware researchers are opening a new front in the war on cancer, bringing to bear new nanotechnologies for cancer detection and treatment and introducing a unique nanobomb that can literally blow up breast cancer tumors.

Balaji Panchapakesan, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UD, has recently reported on the discoveries in the journals NanoBiotechnology and Oncology Issues.

Panchapakesan said this is basic research in the very early stages of inquiry and that it would take extensive testing and years of clinical trials before the nanobombs could actually be used in medical applications to treat human beings.

"Make no mistake, we are focused on eradicating cancer," Panchapakesan said, explaining that the nanobombs are the result of work over the past two years with carbon nanotubes, which are atoms of carbon arranged in tubular form.

Originally, he said, the research team was looking at the use of the carbon nanotubes as drug delivery vehicles. Because they are smaller than the size of a single cell, the nanotubes can provide for the highly selective injection of drugs into individual cells.

As they undertook various experiments, however, the team made a startling discovery. "When you put the atoms in different shapes and forms, they take on different properties at the nanoscale," Panchapakesan said. "We were experimenting with the molecules and considering optical and thermal properties, and found we could trigger microscopic explosions of nanotubes in wide variety of conditions."

Explosions in air of loosely packed nanotubes have been seen before in an oxygen environment, creating ignition. However, the work reported by Panchapakesan uses the localized thermal energy imbalance to set off explosions that are intrinsic in nature.

Panchapakesan said the nanobombs are just that, tiny bombs on the nanoscale. "They work almost like cluster bombs," he said. "Once
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Source:University of Delaware


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