Nanoshell Shields to Starve Cancer Cells

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Shell Shield

Nanoengineers from the University of California, San Diego have developed a nanoshell to shield foreign enzymes that starve cancer cells from the immune system. The research can aid doctors in chemotherapy by starving cancer cells from reacting with amino acids that provides them with nutrients. For e.g. asparagines used in chemotherapy reacts with amino acids by depleting them and depriving tumour cells from nutrients that are required for proliferating.

Enzymes are responsible for many complex functions and chemical reactions in biology. However, their efficiency has been limited by the immune system which is designed to attack foreign intruders. Asparagines produced from E. coli, a non human organism is therefore, eliminated by patients’ immune system. Hence, the purpose of starving cancer cells through asparagines is not achieved. However, the invention of nanoshells looks promising as it acts like a filter in the bloodstream. The enzymes are loaded into the nanoparticles very efficiently through pores on its surface and are later encapsulated with a shell of nanoporous silica. The shell's pores are too small for the enzyme to escape but are big enough to diffuse the amino acids.

The engineering solution provided by the researchers was tested on animals where it was found that the nanoshells effectively protected enzymes from the immune system. 

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