Scientists at the University of Bath have taken a small but significant step in the fight against cancer – by making nanoparticles glow in the dark.
The team from the university’s Department of Chemistry have announced the development of a new technique to create nanoparticles, tiny markers that can be attached to drugs and cells, that are fluorescent, and therefore far more easily traced and tracked through the body and in the lab.
The group has teamed up with the Research Complex at Harwell and private firms that manufacture nanoparticles for the research industry.
In the short term, Dr Sofia Pascu and Professor Tony James from the Bath university said their work will help fellow scientists work on finding drugs to beat cancer and other diseases more accurately and cheaply, but in the long term it could also mean that doctors can diagnose and then treat tumours that are otherwise inaccessible.
The Bath scientists and private industry colleagues have been awarded £1 million from the Technology Strategy Board, the Swindon-based science quango, to work on the new technology – and said it could be a giant leap forward in the way diseases such as cancer are researched and treatments developed.
Current technologies try to mark antibodies and nanoparticles with dye, but that fades too quickly when it is attached to a drug or a cell the scientists want to track. Developing a new “suite” of fluorescent nanoparticles will enable a straightforward way of seeing the impact of a drug or the growth or development of a cancer cell.
Dr Pascu is leading the research project. “This research is building upon new and exciting technologies where we already have been achieving some success – fluorescent nanoparticles with targeting molecules – to produce a new generation of tools for research, diagnostics and biological imaging involving custom-built antibodies,” she said.
“Existing fluorescent labels are either based on dyes that have a short lifetime, or commercial particles called quantum dots, which are expensive and have problems with stability and toxicity.
“We aim to overcome these challenges by investigating new types of nanoparticles that do not interfere with biological materials in cells, and can be produced more cheaply than existing technologies.”
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via University of Bath / This is Bath
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