Nanobombs Blow Up Cancer

Everybody who is familiar with nanotechnology has probably heard of the scenario where we’ll have advanced nanotechnology that will help us diagnose diseases before the symptoms even hit. This way, it will be easy to treat and prevent our diseases, and a life in good health will be a guarantee.

Well, we’re not exactly there yet, but Balaji Panchapakesan of the University of Delaware is working to make this fictice scenario a reality.

Researchers have created “nanobombs” that can produce nanoscale explosions to blow up cancer.

Balaji Panchapakesan of the University of Delaware has reported on the nanobombs in both NanoBiotechnology and Oncology Issues.

Panchapakesan says the nanobombs are in the early stages of development, but that the goal is to use them in medical applications.

“Make no mistake, we are focused on eradicating cancer,” he says.

The bombs are created through the bundling of carbon nanotubes. Nanotubes dissipate heat generated by the light into surrounding air. In bundles, they can’t dissipate the heat as quickly and the result is “an explosion on the nanoscale,” says Panchapakesan.

“The nanobomb is very selective, very localized and minimally invasive,” Panchapakesan said. “It might cause what I would call nanopain, like a pin prick.”

The nanobombs could also offer advantages over other nanotech treatments as they are destroyed along with cancer cells. Macrophages then clear cell debris and exploded nanotubes, preventing nanoparticles from jamming up in the body.

This stuff is all for real these days.

How lucky are we to be alive right now… come the next decade, we’ll look back on cancer as we now do on poor hygene and all consequences thereof.
See also this related Wired article on nano-sensors.

The field of nanotechnology has been long on hype and short on real products — with the possible exception of stain-free pants. Likewise, the emergence of personalized medicine — that utopian vision of detecting a disease at the doctor’s office before symptoms have hit, and then treating it at the molecular level — has long been foretold, but still hasn’t arrived.

But a product that should appear next year could fulfill both visions. Northbrook, Illinois-based Nanosphere is preparing to launch a diagnostic system that uses nanoparticles to detect various proteins at a level of sensitivity never before seen.

“[Nanospheres] could really be the breakthrough technology that revolutionizes the medical field,” he said. “Often, discoveries lead to technologies in search of a use. But in this case, the need for this type of technology is so intense that if it works as advertised, it will be hugely popular.”

And the nanotech revolution hasn’t even started yet…

[update]

Here‘s an article that describes the professor and his nanobombs a little more elaborately.

3 thoughts on “Nanobombs Blow Up Cancer

  1. Anonymous

    The nanobombs are superior to a variety of current treatments because they are powerful, selective, non-invasive, nontoxic and can incorporate current technology, including microsurgery.
    Laser light ignites bundles of nanotubes, which explode like tiny cluster bombs.
    An advantage over other carbon nanotube treatments being considered by scientists is that with nanobombs, the carbon nanotubes are destroyed along with the cancer cells. Once the nanobombs are exploded and kill cancer cells, macrophages can effectively clear the cell debris and the exploded nanotube along with it.

    Other treatments retain the carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles intact. If the material finds its way to the kidney or accumulates in the blood vessels, the nanoparticles might cause blockage and create problems, Panchapakesan said. Furthermore, the nanobomb route is probably the only way to use nanotubes without any cytotoxicity as the nanotubes are destroyed completely.

    Current surgical techniques are not precise and cancerous cells are often left behind. In addition, cancers in some part of the body, such as arteries and veins, are sometimes considered inoperable. Nanobombs can be used to target any remaining cancerous cells and can be used in any part of the body, allowing the creation of nanobomb therapy for a wide variety of cancers.

    Panchapakesan said the method is far better than modern chemotherapy, which is non-selective, kills normal cells as well as cancerous cells and leads to a decline in the quality of life for the patient. “This is valuable in patient management, pain management and overall quality of life,” he said.

    Furthermore, Panchapakesan said, the nanobomb is a “very simple technique” and as such will likely prove to be “more robust and with the best chance to succeed.”

    Panchapakesan added, “We are just getting started in this area. There is plenty of work ahead to successfully translate this into clinical medicine.”

    In addition to treatment, he believes nanotechnology can provide new tools for cancer diagnosis through the use of tiny nanosensors.

    “In the future, my vision is that people will have at-home kits that can detect cancer. After work they will be able to go to a clinic, be treated with nanobombs and go home,” Panchapakesan said. While these initial experiments are on breast cancer cells, he is also working to extend his method to prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer.

    He also foresees nano-bio-robots or nano-surgical tools that can be placed inside the body to remove tumors in areas previously inaccessible using traditional treatment methods.

    Panchapakesan said the team’s findings are the result of interdisciplinary research. “Different sciences come together to make this work,” he said, citing cancer biology, physics, electrical and computer engineering and chemistry. “Interdisciplinary research provides for fresh perspectives and brings about new ideas, which is probably the way to go in the future.”

    capastorm

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