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Wednesday, 02 September, 2009

Coruscating currants in a cake

Nanocrystals could make anti-cancer drugs more efficient

Agents employed for the chemotherapy of cancer can have unwanted side-effects. Therefore, a major objective of novel approaches to therapy is to find ways of efficiently targeting the treatment to the tumour, so as to minimize – as far as possible – damage to healthy tissues. In an interdisciplinary study, scientists led by Dr. Manfred Ogris at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich have developed a method that allows them to monitor the distribution of compounds in whole animals by taking snapshots at different times after injection. The technique relies on the attachment of fluorescent nanocrystals to fragments of DNA. These gene vectors are taken up by the tumour, and the genes they carry direct the synthesis of proteins that attack the tumour. Using light in the near-infrared region to induce the nanocrystals to fluoresce, Ogris and his team were able to track the particles, allowing them to observe the distribution of the vectors associated with them, for periods ranging from seconds to minutes. This novel method could contribute to the development of more efficient, targeted cancer therapeutics in the future (Molecular Therapy Online, 25 August 2009). (from LMU press release)

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