With our improved understanding and sustained research in the promising field of nanotechnology, scientists have now acquired the skill to cork the world's tiniest test tubes. These findings have the potential to revolutionize cancer treatment. These tiny nanoscale medical devices can be filled with anti-cancer drugs and injected into cancer patients, as a treatment modality.
The diameter of the tiniest tubes, scientists have made, are about 80 nanometres or 80-billionth of a metre. Even though they are tiny, each tube can hold about five million drug molecules.
They will seek diseased or cancerous cells, uncork and spill their therapeutic contents in the right place, according to a report on the University of Florida website.
'Because they are open at one end it would be like trying to ship wine in a bottle without a cork,' explained scientist Charles Martin of the university.
While chemotherapy works against many cancers, it can cause severe side effects such as nausea, temporary hair loss and blood disease.
To make the chemo hit only the cancerous cells, Martin and scientists have spent years experimenting with drug-carrying nanotubes or nanoparticles.
'Nano' stems from nanotechnology, the fast-growing science of making objects or devices that approach molecular dimensions. One nanometer equals one-billionth of a metre.
To 'cork' the test tubes, the researchers applied an amino chemical group to the mouth of the tubes and an aldehyde chemical group to the corks. The two groups are complementary, so they bond with one another.
Billions of nanotubes could fit on a postage stamp and therefore, 'we do not put individual caps in each nanotube, the way corking machines do for bottles', said Martin.
Instead, the scientists immerse a small mesh that holds millions of amino-modified nanotubes, all precisely lined up in a grid pattern, into a solution imbued with millions of the corks.
However, the capping might not work as the tube could leak before it reaches its target, warned Sang Bok Lee, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Maryland.