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General Health Channel
Reported January 31, 2006

Nanoshuttle Destroys Disease

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Here's some medical research right out of the sci-fi books. Researchers have created a "nanoshuttle" to seek out and treat disease in the body.

Researchers from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston have found a way for viral and gold particles to come together and "hunt" disease in the body to treat it. The use of these biologically compatible materials fabricates a "nanoshuttle," which can be harnessed to viral particles to seek and destroy. The nanoshuttle is thousands of times smaller than a human hair.

Researchers say assembled gold particles (which are not rejected by the body) could possibly be manipulated to destroy tissue. Those particles could be used, as well, to emit signals that can be detected by imaging devices. The nanoshuttle could also be used to form a flexible scaffold to deliver drugs, genes or even stem cells.

Renata Pasqualini, Ph.D., from the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, says, "Gold is a perfect metal to perform these different functions, and scientists have been trying to find a way to target such particles to specific organs or tissues, but it has been extremely difficult. Instead of taking the usual approach by using a synthetic molecule or polymer, we have found a way to mix a 'genetically programmable' nanoparticle with a biologically compatible metal that together target specific locations in the body."

The nanoshuttle has not been tested in vivo, say researchers, but this study is the first to show how gold particles and viral particles can combine and build a matrix that can support stem cells.

Wadih Arap, M.D., co-author on the study, says, "This is our vision of the future, and, of course, it all needs to be further studied and translated into real clinical applications. But we can now think in those terms because of this pioneering work that merges the fields of vascular targeting and nanotechnology."

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: /newsalert/.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2006;103:1215-1220

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