August 23, 2013, Nanotechnology is making a big contribution to medical science. At the University of Georgia scientists in the NanoTherapeutics Research Laboratory are using nanoparticles to teach immune cells to recognize and attack cancer cells.
Cancer thrives because it confuses the immune system which has trouble discriminating between diseased and healthy cells. As a result the cancer cells multiply and eventually form tumors that consume the body as they grow.
The researchers, however, removed cancerous cells from a patient and targeted the mitochondria (the cell within our cells) using nanoparticles which disrupted function and caused cell death. They then exposed the patient’s immune system and cells to the dead cancer cells with the former recognizing the latter as a foreign invader. These activated immune cells if cultured could become a personalized vaccine making it possible to kill the cancer.
Breast cancer was the target of the research done using mice. Human trials will have to follow before this can become part of a growing number of nanotech medical treatments for many diseases.