In recent news, there have been two great discoveries – similar in theory, but very different in appearance and use – for delivering drugs. Both use remote control mechanisms, the first invention describes how a remote control pill can release its contents once it reaches the area at which the drugs need to be delivered (see:Remote-control Nanoparticles Deliver Drugs Directly Into Tumors). The second discovery takes place at the nano-level – here, Remote-control Nanoparticles Deliver Drugs Directly Into Tumors; the drugs are released by an electromagnetic field once the nanoparticles get in the vicinity of the tumorigenic cells. This therapy works well for attacking primary tumor sites; however, this therapy won’t be very robust when trying to eliminate metastatic colonies, or rogue cells that may have broken off from originating tumors. I am still bullish on an approach to cancer therapy that includes the programming of one’s own immune system to identify tumorigenic cells and destroy them.
Cancer is able to evade the immune system, and grow within our bodies in a number of ways. Tumours are able to accomplish this feat in hundreds, if not thousands of different ways.
Researchers at USC mentioned that you could then take these “immune signatures” generated by the immune response against a tumour — and target them with whichever drugs or therapy is best suited. This builds on personalized medicine, here’s why: lets say two tumours exist, A + B, where A is a breast tumour and B is a prostate tumour. Generally tumours A + B will have different biochemistry for reasons including: (1) different cell of origin; and (2) different prepotency for specific mutations thus causing cancers in the different cells. Traditionally, drugs have either tries to poison these cells, or hijack an intracellular process associated with a specific mutation found in one cancer. By looking at the immune response signature, you could generate immune-specific drugs that could target tumour illiciting similar immune signatures. Therefore, it could be found for one drug commonly used for tumour A to work perfectly in tumour B if the immune response signatures are in alignment.
In the article, the researchers generated signatures using real-time PCR on 14 pro-immunity genes, and 11 anti-immunity genes from 5 different mouse tumour models. This is merely a start to what seems to be the tip of the iceburg here. It will be excited to see future developments.
Coming soon to your body: A real-time blood pressure monitor.
As discussed in the article Nanowires in the blood could feel the pressure, reseachers at the Georgia Institute of Technology used the piezoelectric effect in zinc oxide semiconducting nanowires to generate a current proportional to the amount the nanowire is bent. When implanted in the body, a change in blood pressure could easily be monitored by a device using this sensitive technology (detection of forces at the piconewton scale: 10^-12 N). Zinc oxide is also biocompatible, so it is very unlikely to be attacked and rejected by the immune system.
Get ready for a variety of devices that could interact with this sensor, as it could relay information through a simple wireless signal. Just think of the number of other biological applications this could have. Brain pressure sensing in concussion patients? Researchers are constantly developing new nanoscale, biocompatible sensors, generators, switches and transmitting systems. This nanowire pressure sensing device will surely be added to the biosensing and reporting toolkit.
Some nano toolkit links: