Nanotech 1, Cancer 0

    August 3, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

Stanford University reports it has found an approach to destroying cancer cells with lasers and nanotechnology.

Through a non-invasive use of laser therapy, Stanford researchers can destroy cancer cells and leave healthy cells intact. The findings of Dr. Hongjie Dai and others were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, according to a statement from Stanford.

Nanotechnology comes into play via nanotubes, which heat up when exposed to near-infrared light. That light passes through cells in the body without causing any harm. Shine that light on nanotubes, and they heat up; load up a cancer cell with nanotubes and hit it with near-infrared light, and the cancer cell dies.

The next trick was to get those nanotubes, half the width of a DNA molecule, into cancer cells while avoiding healthy cells. Dr. Dai and his group found a way to do that via “biochemical trickery.” From the release:

Unlike normal cells, the surface of a cancer cell contains numerous receptors for a vitamin known as folate. The researchers decided to coat the nanotubes with folate molecules, which would only be attracted to diseased cells with folate receptors.

Dr. Dai also notes in the statement that other methods can be used to accomplish this: “(W)e can attach an antibody to a carbon nanotube to target a particular kind of cancer cell.” Lymphoma was noted as one example, and continuing research will determine if lymphatic tumors can be targeted and destroyed with this approach, as researchers suspect.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.