Cancer cells are incredibly flexible about promoting their own movement and growth in the body. They can travel through blood vessels as thin as spider silk. They even change their shape to do so, yet are still able to divide and cluster into colonies in those very skinny spaces. That spreading through the body is called metastasis, and it’s what makes cancer turn deadly.
Researchers are now putting nanotechnology to work to help decipher exactly how cancer cells perform this extraordinary feat. An article in Nanotechnology Now reports:
The researchers trapped live cancer cells in the tubular membranes and, with optical high- and super-resolution microscopy, could see how the cells adapted to the confined environment. Cell structures significantly changed in the nanomembranes, but it appeared that membrane blebbing — the formation of bulges — at the cells’ tips helped keep genetic material stable, an important requirement for healthy cell division.
One of the biggest promises of nanomedicine is that doctors will be able to deliver needed medications directly to a site within your body without negatively affecting other tissues. That’s still a moving target, though.
One of the most challenging obstacles is the density and opaqueness of human tissue such as blood vessel walls and organs. A recent study reported in ACS nano (American Chemical Society Nano) has revealed a way to more accurately track where nanoparticles go once inside the body by allowing visibility a little deeper into living tissue. A gel, injected into tissues removed from mice, linked all the molecules of the tissue together except for lipids – the substances responsible for making tissue opaque. Lipids washed easily away and “left the tissues clear but otherwise intact.”
Lest you picture a big chunk of clear material, the actual depth to which researchers could image nanoparticles was only 1 millimeter, but that’s 25 times deeper than with existing methods. The hope is that in addition to helping track nanoparticles, this approach will assist researchers with tissue engineering, implant and biosensor applications.
Slowly, we peel away one tiny layer at a time from the mysteries of nature.
The study issues a recommendation that, in order to best protect technicians working with nanomaterials, manufacturers should develop and use soft, pliable, short, plant-based nanofibers rather than longer, rigid tubes. Thankfully, some specific safety guidelines for workers in this burgeoning field of bioscience.
A new nanotech laser-like solution may help surgeons more completely remove brain tumors, especially those called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Instead of guessing which cells are cancerous, this new scanner can identify them for sure so that only and hopefully all the tumor cells are surgically removed.
The day before surgery was to take place, researchers injected “Raman nanoprobes” into a in a mouse model that mimics human GBM. The nanoprobes headed right to tumor cells and avoided ordinary brain cells. Then the researchers used a handheld device similar to a laser pointer that allows them to identify and remove all malignant cells in the rodents’ brains.
Some steps of this procedure have already made it to human testing for other purposes. So researchers hope this process will move quickly into clinical trials. And they hope eventually to use the device to treat other types of brain cancer.
The substance nitric oxide (NO), one of my favorite topics, is now known to be break-downable into components, one of which has one less electron. It’s known as NO(-) or HNO or nitroxyl, and researchers are finding some exciting new applications for it.
The other use for nitroxyl (HNO) involves its use in treating heart failure. Researchers normally write in very reserved terms about their discoveries, but the author of the passage below seems pretty excited about the implications of the research. Basically it’s saying that HNO donors can do things that regular NO donors cannot do and may be dramatically more useful in treating cardiovascular disease.
Thus, unlike NO*, HNO can target cardiac sarcoplasmic ryanodine receptors to increase myocardial contractility, can interact directly with thiols and is resistant to both scavenging by superoxide (*O2-) and tolerance development. HNO donors are protective in the setting of heart failure in which NO donors have minimal impact.
It’s cool to see this showing three of my favorite topics coming together: nitric oxide, nanotechnology and heart failure. But then, when all is said and done someday, everything in bioscience will undoubtedly coalesce in one way or another.
The ability to control the movement of artificial nanomotors inside a human cell has far and wide implications for finding and treating cancers and other conditions. The hope is that the technology could be developed to perform intracellular surgeries and deliver drugs noninvasively.
Researchers tried introducing nanomotors years ago, but they had to use toxic fuels to propel them and even then they wouldn’t move in biological fluids, so the approach wasn’t practical in living tissue. Now they’ve discovered how to use ultrasonic waves to get the nanomotors to move forward or spin. They can also steer them using magnetic forces. And several of the little guys can be directed to move independently within the same cell. This technique has already been shown to be able to do some damage inside a HeLa cancer cell.
The first item is about nitric oxide (NO) used in testing, and the rest are all about using nanoparticles for delivering things into the human body, including NO. It’s astounding that scientists have found nanotechnology so helpful in these kinds of applications. I just hope more research is done on how safe it is to inject nanomaterials into our bodies or make us breathe them in. Their size is so similar to the deadly asbestos fibers that are currently costing billions in lawsuits by workers whose companies didn’t protect them from breathing and ingesting them.
Gotta make sure the cure doesn’t damage the patient in different ways than the condition it’s meant to help.
Japanese researchers have developed a new way to deliver nitric oxide (NO) gas into cells.
Nitric oxide is a workhorse in the body. It signals cells to divide, expands blood vessels and sends signals between nerve cells in the brain. Scientists believe that figuring out how NO controls all this may help them come up with new approaches to treating cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
Despite progress, it’s still a mystery just how much NO causes specific effects. “No existing technique has been able to capture what this gas is truly doing at the cellular level,” said Stephane Diring, who led the study.
The system lets them control exactly where and how much nitric oxide is delivered by tuning the intensity and wavelength of the light, according to researcher Shuhei Furukawa. Plus, the fact that the light is infrared means it won’t harm other cells.
One giant leap into understanding NO. One small step in the never-ending battle to develop non-invasive therapies.
Research into how the heart communicates is yielding some fascinating insights. A recent study with mice has shown that the heart’s cells receive signals from the nervous system, but then the heart initiates its own way of passing on signals to other heart cells. The results could lead to novel ways to study the mechanisms of heart failure – where the system that speeds up and slows down the heart gets out of whack and results in the heart’s being unable to pump enough blood to the muscles.
What heart cells use to send messages to other heart cells is the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). The study used mice whose heart cells only had been engineered not to release ACh. Their heart rates remained normal at rest but went much higher than usual rates during exercise and their hearts took much longer to return to normal after exercise. “The results suggest the heart cell derived ACh may boost parasympathetic signaling to counterbalance sympathetic activity.”
The researcher thinks this heart-critical non-neuronal source of ACh might also play a role in other organs. This study was supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
“…polymeric nanoparticles, oral insulin admin-istration using polysaccharides and polymeric nanoparticles, inhalable insulin nanoparticle formulations, and insulin delivery using BioMEMS [biomedical (or biological) microelectromechanical systems]. In addition to ceramic and polymeric nanoparticles, studies on gold nanoparticles for insulin delivery and treatment of diabetes-associated symptoms are discussed.”
I had to look up “polymeric,” so I’ll share. Polymeric just means made out of polymers, which are already in everything from synthetic plastics (your kitchen storage stuff) and other things we use every day at work and at home, to natural biopolymers (like in RNA, DNA and amino acids) that are critical pieces of our biological selves.
And here’s one about nanosensors that could selectively measure glucose concentrations. Glucose would alter the current flowing down the conductive nanotubes. That data would then be fed to an embedded microchip which would send it wirelessly to a wearable computer. The technology’s not there yet, though. They’re still working on making these things compatible with staying inside the human body for long periods of time – not a small problem.