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Submarine-Like Device to Deliver Cancer Drugs Inside Human Body

Submarine-Like Device to Deliver Cancer Drugs Inside Human Body

Friday, 31 May, 2019 - 06:45
Cervical cancer cells. Reuters/NCI/handout
Cairo- Hazem Badr

Australian researchers have engineered a new submarine-like device to deliver gastrointestinal cancer drugs inside the human body.

During the study published in the latest issue of the Materials Today journal this week, researchers at the New South Wales University announced that this promising technique exploits biological environments to tune the submarines, enabling them to carry drugs to specific locations in the body.

In the same way that submarines use oxygen or water to flood ballast points to make them more or less buoyant, gas bubbles released or retained by the micro-motors due to the pH conditions in human cells contribute to these nanoparticles moving up or down.

According to a report published on the university's website, each capsule of medicine could contain millions of micro-submarines, and within each micro-submarine would be millions of drug molecules.

Once in the gastrointestinal fluid, the micro-submarines carrying the medicine could be released. The drug-loaded particles can then be internalized by the cells at the site of the cancer. Once inside the cells, they will be degraded causing the release of the drugs to fight the cancer in a very targeted and efficient way.

According to the report, a patient should be either upright or lying down so the submarines can find their target.

Dr. Kang Liang, from the Center for Advanced Macromolecular Design in University of New South Wales, told Asharq Al-Awsat via email that "this technique is highly safe because most of the components found in these nano submarines already exist in the human body."

The so-called micro-submarines are essentially composite metal-organic frameworks (MOF)-based micro-motor systems containing a bioactive enzyme (catalase, CAT) as the engine for gas bubble generation.

Speaking about upgrading this technique into the clinical trial stage, Liang said: "We are currently focusing on the basic sciences that can provide new biomedical technology in the near future, so development is still at an early stage to demonstrate the concept. At this stage we will be testing more nanoparticle systems. Then, we plan to evaluate toxicity, bio-distribution, and efficiency in animal samples, before moving eventually to patients, which may require 10 years".

Liang stresses that the technique is designed to target cancer, adding that "our system relies on taking into account the nature of cancer cells."

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