University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) researchers have developed a new way to deliver drugs into cancer cells by exposing them briefly to nanoparticles and lasers.
Norbert Reich, senior author and a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCSB, conducted the study using cancer cells in mice.
"This entirely novel tool will allow biologists to investigate how genes function by providing them with temporal and spatial control over when a gene is turned on or off. In a nutshell, what we describe is the ability to control genes in cells and we are working on doing this in animals simply by briefly exposing them to a non-harmful laser," he said.
The scientists used cancer cells from mice, and grew them in culture.
They then introduced gold nanoshells, with a peptide-lipid coating, that encapsulated "silencing ribonucleic acid" (siRNA), which was the drug that was taken up by the cells.
And finally, they exposed the cells to a non-harmful infrared laser. "A major technical hurdle is how to combine multiple biochemical components into a compact nanoparticle which may be taken up by cells and exist stably until the release is desired. Laser-controlled release is a convenient and powerful tool, allowing precise dosing of particular cells within a group. The use of biologically friendly tissue penetration with near-infrared light is the ideal for extending this capability into larger biological systems such as tissues and animals," said Gary Braun, first author of the study.
The authors have for the first time demonstrated the delivery of a potent siRNA cargo inside mammalian cancer cells, released by exposing the internalized nanoparticles for several seconds to a pulsed near-infrared laser tuned for peak absorption with a specific spatial pattern.
The technique could be expanded to numerous drug molecules against diverse biological targets.
The results have been published in ACS Nano, a journal of the American Chemical Society.