There is much debate over the issue of nanotechnology, with recent reports swinging to the positive side of the spectrum. Scientists at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Nanotechnology Center say nanotechnology may provide an avenue for physicians to track cancer cells in the body, and enable targeted treatment.
A recent report in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette says the scientists, led by Alexandru Biris, assistant professor and the chief scientist at the university’s Nanotechnology Center, have developed a technique for attacking cancer cells by injecting them with nanoparticles a few thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, then heating the particles with low-frequency radiation. The heat kills the cancer cell completely. The nanotechnology scientists are working in cooperation with physicians from the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences department.
The Gazette article quotes Dr. Piotr Grodzinski, director of the National Cancer Institute’s Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer as saying the concept of using nanoparticles to treat cancer isn’t new, but that the type of nanoparticle developed by the Little Rock team is groundbreaking. The Little Rock team usues a highly magnetic cobalt particle surrounded by layers of graphitic carbon.
Scientists at the UALR Nanotechnology Center have had promising results from initial research, killing about 98 percent of cervical cancer cells used in the study. Before they can move into clinical trials with human beings – at least two years away – they must investigate a number of issues, including how the technique will affect surrounding tissues and how to reduce the toxicity of the metals used in the nanoparticles, among others.
It is the mission of the Nanotechnology Center at UALR to “advance the science of Nanotechnology through research and outreach and accelerate technological innovations into practical applications for society.” The Center received .9 million in funding from the Arkansas State Goverment in 2006, which helped the program garner an additional .9 million in federal grant funding.
Read the full article online at the UALR Nanotechnology Center web site.
Nanotechnology has raised safety concerns in the past as a concern for mesothelioma. Last May, this site featured information from an article published in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology, which likened the effect of carbon nanotubes to asbestos fibers when introduced into the body.
The UALR Nanotechnology Center acknowledges that as with exposure to asbestos, nanotubes can be potentially dangerous if the tiny fibers are inhaled, noting that manufacturers, lab researchers, suppliers and other professionals who handle nanotubes are at risk and should use protective clothing. The Center also recommends appropriate ventilation in areas where carbon nanotube fibers may become airborne. Scientists are still examining the possible connection between carbon nanotubes and mesothelioma.