Moisturizer supercharged with gene-regulation technology may help to fight skin cancer.
In case of skin conditions like melanoma, treatments that are applied directly to the skin are the ideal drug solution as they are easy to use and they affect only the area under which they are applied.
Our skin is such a successful barrier against toxins and so finding substances that penetrate it is a huge challenge, according Amy Paller at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
So until now, clinics have used lasers or ultrasound to help deliver drugs deep into the skin.
Now, Paller and her colleague Chad Mirkin, also at Northwestern, have found a way through the skin barrier.
They coated tiny gold spheres with small interfering RNA (siRNA) - tiny pieces of nucleic acid that appear to penetrate the barrier and enter skin cells through an as-yet unspecified pathway.
The siRNA is selected to target one of the genes responsible for making cancer cells grow quickly, called epidermal growth factor receptor.
"Nanoparticles are an all-in-one solution," New scientist quoted Paller as saying.
Paller and Mirkin mixed the drug with shop-bought moisturizer and applied it to mouse skin.
They found that not only did the nanoparticles penetrate the skin, but they also targeted the intended gene without causing toxicity or other side effects in the surrounding skin.
Their study had been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.