Thursday, 06 July 2023 04:29

Breakthrough as new treatment can kill cancer while leaving healthy cells intact - Study

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Nano-sized particles made from copper and silver are able to kill cancercells with minimal side effects to healthy tissues.

This is the promise of new research from the Middle East, who demonstrated a new delivery mechanism for the cancer-killing nanoparticles in cell cultures in the laboratory.

If realized clinically, the new treatment approach could offer an alternative to chemotherapy, which comes with some inherent limitations.

Chemotherapy drugs tend to have a low tumor specificity and cause unpleasant side effects. On top of this, cancers can develop resistance to these treatments, leading to relapse.

The nanoparticle approach, however, can be delivered with far greater specificity to cancer cells, and may overcome conventional resistance issues.

The study was undertaken by mechanical engineer Professor, Yousef Haik of the University of Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, and his colleagues.

Haik said: "Our treatment is based on administering silver-copper nanoparticles that kill cancer cells, but leave surrounding healthy cells intact."

Metallic nanoparticles have been attracting considerable attention for their potential in the treatment of cancer thanks to their reduced toxicity, lack of stability and retention.

What is novel about the work of Haik and his team, however, is the approach they are using to get their nanoparticles into the target cancer cells.

Their technique involves taking advantage of a form of natural cell-to-cell communication that relies on exosomes - nano-scale, sac-like "vesicles" that carry genetic material and proteins from the cell that produced them to others.

By binding their metallic nanoparticles up with wheat germ agglutinin and feeding them into healthy cells of the type as the cancer in question, the team were able to get them preferentially delivered to the target cells.

Thanks to the binding protein, the particles get incorporated into exosomes which are formed, Haik explained, "through a biogenesis process and shed outside the cells as drug-loaded vesicles".

He added: "Exosomes derived from healthy cells tend to preferentially accumulate in tumor cells of the same tissue origin ten times more than any other cells due to composition matching between these exosomes and these cells."

Haik said: "If the finding is applied as treatment, the novel drug will damage cancerous cells, leaving no harmful effects on the surrounding healthy tissues.

"Silver and copper nanoparticles have shown to preferentially kill cancer cells at low concentration without any effect on healthy cells within the therapeutic dose."

The study, he added, provides a fresh and significant platform for a "complimentary anticancer drug and a smart delivery vesicle".

He went on to suggest the work will serve as "a foundational resource for the emerging field of nanoengineering and medicine."

The researchers have cautioned that further investigation will be needed before their approach might be considered for clinical applications.

However, Haik concluded: "Our study demonstrated the feasibility of producing novel drug carriers from healthy cells."

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Advanced Biology.


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