Nanoparticles With Polymer and Peptides Target Liver Cancer Cells

Special nanoparticles with polymers, lipids, and peptides carry drugs to liver cancer cells
Special nanoparticles with polymers, lipids, and peptides carry drugs to liver cancer cells

Researchers have developed novel drug-delivery carriers on the nanoscale that specifically target malignant human liver cancer cells. The researchers report in a paper that appeared online in Nature Materials that these new drug delivery agents that can carry all kinds of molecules are made from porous silica nanoparticles wrapped in a special lipid membrane and a polymer.

“Encapsulation of drugs within nanocarriers that selectively target malignant cells promises to mitigate side effects of conventional chemotherapy and to enable delivery of the unique drug combinations needed for personalized medicine,” explained the team led by University of New Mexico‘s Carlee Ashley and C. Jeffrey Brinker.

The researchers gave the silica nanoparticles specialized functions. They attached specific peptides that helped the nanoparticles find the liver cancer cells within the organ and bind to them. The nanoparticles also were covered with the polymer polyethylene glycol to make them more stable.

When the nanoparticles bound to the cancer cells, they forced the diseased cells to swallow them. Once inside the cells, the nanoparticle carriers released the drugs they were carrying inside of them, killing the cells. The researchers also showed that they could package medical imaging agents inside of these carriers, which could potentially help clinicians with diagnoses.

Source: “The targeted delivery of multicomponent cargos to cancer cells by nanoporous particle-supported lipid bilayers,” Nature Materials, 04/17/11
Image provided by Mona Aragon, Carlee Ashley and C. Jeffrey Brinker.


Rajendrani "Raj" Mukhopadhyay is a science writer and editor who contributes news stories and feature articles on scientific advances to a variety of magazines. Raj holds Ph.D. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University.