Scientists may be able to explode individual cancer cells — by implanting nanoparticles into the cells and then hitting them with lasers to create "nanobubbles," which can grow until they burst the cells.
Scientists at Rice University found that they could target individual cells with the "nanobubble" therapy, and tune the laser therapy, either creating small, bright bubbles that are easy to see — or, for diseased cells, larger bubbles that destroy the cell in question. The Rice researchers were able to use the technique to destroy leukemia cells and cells from head and neck cancers. They attached antibodies to the nanoparticles, so they would only target the cancer cells — and found that they were able to locate and destroy the cancer cells, leaving healthy cells undamaged.
This new research follows a study last year, in which scientists at the the Laboratory for Laser Cytotechnologies at the A.V. Lykov Heat and Mass Transfer Institute in Minsk, Belarus were able to use nanobubbles to destroy plaque cells blocking someone's artery.
Says the new study's lead author, Rice University physicist Dmitri Lapotko:
Single-cell targeting is one of the most touted advantages of nanomedicine, and our approach delivers on that promise with a localized effect inside an individual cell. The idea is to spot and treat unhealthy cells early, before a disease progresses to the point of making people extremely ill.