Posted on Sep 25, 2013, 6 a.m.
Treatment technique uses nanoparticles to reprogram immune cells so they are able to recognize and attack cancer.
The immune system is a complex network of cells and tissues that is integral for protecting the body against cancer. However, most cancerous cells, avoid detection by the immune system because they so closely resemble normal cells, leaving the cancerous cells free to multiply and grow into life-threatening tumors while the body’s immune system remain unaware. Shanta Dhar, from the University of Georgia (Georgia, USA), and colleagues exposed cancer cells in a petri dish to specially designed nanoparticles 1,000 times finer than the width of a human hair. The nanoparticles invade the cell and penetrate the mitochondria—the organelles responsible for producing the energy a cell needs to grow and replicate. The team then activated the nanoparticles inside the cancer cells by exposing them to a tissue-penetrating long wavelength laser light. Once activated, the nanoparticles disrupt the cancer cell's normal processes, eventually leading to its death. The dead cancer cells were collected and exposed to dendritic cells, one of the core components of the human immune system, with the dendritic cells producing a high concentration of chemical signals that served to stimulate the immune response.
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Sean Marrache, Smanla Tundup, Donald A. Harn, Shanta Dhar. “Ex Vivo Programming of Dendritic Cells by Mitochondria-Targeted Nanoparticles to Produce Interferon-Gamma for Cancer Immunotherapy.” ACS Nano, 2013, 7 (8), pp 7392–7402; July 30, 2013.