A nanocube has been designed by scientists belonging to the Johns Hopkins University which can be utilized for delivering cells or molecules for treatment, to the body of a patient. The study has been published in the Biomedical Microdevices. In the initial stages the cubes look like a flattened box, but when heat is applied, the sides fold up automatically to form the cube shape.
"The self-assembly technique allows us to make a large number of these microcontainers at the same time and at a relatively low cost," said David Gracias, Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins.
The new method relies on existing techniques and chemistry already used to make semiconductor chips, which means that it can be moved relatively easily from the lab to mass production. And because the container is made from metal, it can potentially be navigated to a specific place in the body and designed to release its therapeutic contents on demand.
"It's difficult to turn a two-dimensional structure into a three-dimensional structure. What Gracias is doing is finding a way to make these little cubes using a simple production," said professor Mauro Ferrari of Ohio State University.
The team engineered the sides of the box to contain different-sized pores, through which they could inject therapeutic cells or microbeads coated with drugs. The pores also allow the drugs to seep out into the body at the appropriate time.
And because the nanocube is made from metal, it can be tracked in the body by magnetic resonance imaging. Coating it in gold, an inert metal that is not toxic to the body, prevents the container from initiating an immune reaction that might destroy it.
Ferrari cautioned that the gold coating will only protect the cube for a short time. If it needs to remain in the body for the weeks or even months needed to deliver cell therapy, the gold coating may not last and the body could reject the device.
The researchers are now conducting tests using magnetic resonance imaging technology to locate the metallic cubes as they move through a microscopic channel filled with fluid.