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Nano shake-up
Date:4/14/2014

Significant advances have been made in chemotherapy over the past decade, but targeting drugs to cancer cells while avoiding healthy tissues continues to be a major challenge.

Nanotechnology has unlocked new pathways for targeted drug delivery, including the use of nanocarriers, or capsules, that can transport cargoes of small-molecule therapeutics to specific locations in the body.

The catch? These carriers are tiny, and it matters just how tiny they are. Change the size from 10 nanometers to 100 nanometers, and the drugs can end up in the wrong cells or organs and thereby damage healthy tissues.

A common assumption is that once a nanocarrier is created, it maintains its size and shape on the shelf as well as in the body.

However, recent work by a group of researchers led by Thomas H. Epps, III, and Millicent Sullivan in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware has shown that routine procedures in handling and processing nanocarrier solutions can have a significant influence on the size and shape of these miniscule structures.

Their findings are reported in a paper, "Size Evolution of Highly Amphiphilic Macromolecular Solution Assemblies Via a Distinct Bimodal Pathway," published in Nature Communications on April 7.

Sullivan explains that chemotherapeutic agents are designed to affect processes related to cell division. Therefore, they not only kill cancer cells but also are toxic to other rapidly proliferating cells such as those in hair follicles and bone marrow. Side effects can range from hair loss to compromised immune systems.

"Our goal is to deliver drugs more selectively and specifically to cancer cells," Sullivan says. "We want to sequester the drug so that we can control when and where it has an impact."

Although there are a number of routes to creating drug-carrying nanocapsules, there is growing interest in the use of poly
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Contact: Andrea Boyle Tippett
aboyle@udel.edu
302-831-1421
University of Delaware
Source:Eurekalert  

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