JUL 22, 2018 5:29 PM PDT

Using Nanosubmarines to Fight Tumors and Headaches

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Therapies that aim to treat disease are often directed at the entire body; that can cause a host of unintended and unwanted side effects while diluting the impact of the drug on the intended target. Researchers have been trying to create better ways to deliver therapeutics directly to the place they’re needed most, and new work has moved us closer to that goal. A team of scientists at the Mainz University Medical Center and the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) engineered a nanocarrier, a miniature system that can attach a capsule of drugs to an immune cell, which can then attack tumors with more vigor. The goal is to use these kinds of nanocarriers to destroy tumors while leaving the healthy tissue that surrounds it intact.

This work has been reported in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Learn more about the function of nanocarriers from the video.

The nanocarriers under development are smaller than one-thousandth of the width of a human hair, no longer visible with the naked eye. Special coatings are put on these nanocarriers, which contain molecules like antibodies, which allow the nanocarrier to identify its targets. The coatings also enable them to dock onto tissues that carry tumor cells inside them. After binding to the tumor-cell-containing tissue, they can release their therapeutic targets in the perfect place.

A new method for binding antibodies to these capsules has been developed by Professor Volker Mailänder and his team at the Department of Dermatology in the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). "Up to now, we have always had to use elaborate chemical methods to bind these antibodies to nanocapsules," explained Mailänder. "We have now been able to show that all that you need to do is to combine antibodies and nanocapsules together in an acidified solution."

This new technique for joining antibodies and nanocapsules is about twice as efficient as other methods, and significantly improves the targeted delivery of therapeutic drugs. It was found that antibodies that were chemically coupled lost efficacy in the blood, but antibodies that weren’t chemically coupled retained their functionality.

"The standard method of binding antibodies using complex chemical processes can degrade antibodies or even destroy them, or the nanocarrier in the blood can become rapidly covered with proteins," noted Professor Katharina Landfester from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research. 

The team developed a way to use adsorption or adhesion to shield the antibodies. The nanocarrier became more stable and distributed drugs more effectively after this change.

The team is hopeful that this new technique will advance the application of nanotechnology-based disease therapeutics.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! Via JGU, Nature Nanotechnology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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