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Killing cancer with nanotechnology

Trials have taken place magnetized nanoparticles to deliver heat to tumors. Although it is unlikely that heat alone will be sufficient to remove cancerous cells, the idea is that heat combined with other treatments, like radiotherapy and chemotherapy, offers a more effective means to treat the disease.

The newly developed nanoparticles are micro-sized balls of iron oxide (around ten nanometers in diameter). This material, when a magnetic field is directed towards it, produces heat.

With the process selecting the correct material for the structure and developing the shape is critical. Experiments suggest that the process of heating up the nanoparticles needs to be controlled according to different types of cancer. For example, different levels of heat are required based on the extent that the cancer has spread.

The process of generating the magnetic field requires a considerable amount of power, and this has proved to be technically challenging. The amount of power required comes down to the way that the nanoparticles are arranged; the more tightly stacked the particles are then the more power they need. This has directed the research to look at particle formation. A further factor is the direction that the particles are facing.

With these parameters being considered, the technology appears promising and trials are set to take place on animal models. This work will focus on small regions where cancer has arisen.

The research has been undertaken at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. The results of the study have been published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. The paper is called “Internal magnetic structure of nanoparticles dominates time-dependent relaxation processes in a Magnetic Field.”

In related news, scientists have found that nanoparticles provide significant improvements in traditional biological imaging of cells and tissues using fluorescence microscopy. This is a useful technique for diagnosing cancer in various regions of the body.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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