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Attacking cancer cells with hydrogel nanoparticles
Date:2/16/2010

One of the difficulties of fighting cancer is that drugs often hit other non-cancerous cells, causing patients to get sick. But what if researchers could sneak cancer-fighting particles into just the cancer cells? Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Ovarian Cancer Institute are working on doing just that. In the online journal BMC Cancer they detail a method that uses hydrogels - less than 100 nanometers in size - to sneak a particular type of small interfering RNA(siRNA) into cancer cells. Once in the cell the siRNA turns on the programmed cell death the body uses to kill mutated cells and help traditional chemotherapy do it's job.

Many cancers are characterized by an over abundance of epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR). When the EGFR level in a cell is elevated it tells the cell to replicate at a rapid rate. It also turns down apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

"With our technique we're inhibiting EGFR's growth, with small interfering RNA. And by inhibiting it's growth, we're increasing the cells's apoptotic function. If we hit the cell with chemotherapy at the same time, we should be able to kill the cancer cells more effectively," said John McDonald, professor at the School of Biology at Georgia Tech and chief research scientist at the Ovarian Cancer Institute.

Small interfering RNA is good at shutting down EGFR production, but once inside the cell siRNA has a limited life span. Keeping it protected inside the hydrogel nanoparticles allows them to get into the cancer cell safely and acts as a protective barrier around them. The hydrogel releases only a small amount of siRNA at a time, ensuring that while some are out in the cancer cell doing their job, reinforcements are held safely inside the nanoparticle until it's time to do their job.

"It's like a Trojan horse," said L. Andrew Lyon, professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech. "We've decorated the surf
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Contact: David Terraso
david.terraso@comm.gatech.edu
404-385-2966
Georgia Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert  

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Attacking cancer cells with hydrogel nanoparticles
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