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Microcapsules target cancer cells

Medicines are successfully used only when they affect only the diseased organs or cells - for example, cancer cells.//

Max Planck researchers attempted to direct microcapsules into cancer cells and release their contents with the help of a laser impulse. They have succeeded in releasing a substance into the tumour cell. They did this by putting the substance into a small capsule and directing it into the tumour cells where it gets “unpacked” with the help of a laser impulse. The laser beam heats up the polymer shell and the contents of the capsule are released. (Angewandte Chemie, July 2006).

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany, and Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich did this study.

Treating malignant tumours is difficult. Doctors have to destroy the tumour, but healthy tissue needs to be preserved. Chemotherapy tends to kill diseased cells, at the same time causing great damage to the body in general. So scientists are looking for ways to destroy only the rampant tumour cells. One way to achieve this is to transport substances inside of microcapsules into the tumour cells and release them there.

Researchers led by André Skirtach and Gleb Sukhorukov at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany, along with Wolfgang Parak at Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich, have now used a laser as a means of opening microcapsules inserted into a tumour cell. The capsules subsequently release their contents, a fluorescent test substance, into the cell. The scientists used a light microscope to monitor how the luminous materials distribute themselves within the cell.

The vehicle that the researchers used was a polymer capsule only a few micrometres in diameter. The walls of the capsules were built from a number of layers of charged polymers, alternating positive and negative.

In the laboratory, at least, this is an
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