Illustration for article titled Nanotech breakthrough could fight skin cancer via moisturizer

Despite the relative ease that things seem to pierce it, our skin actually does a pretty good job of keeping foreign materials out, especially on the molecular level. In fact, sometimes it does this job too well, making it particularly difficult for scientists to target skinborne ailments. A breakthrough technique from Northwestern University could make fighting some major skin cancers as easy as smearing on moisturizer.

The development has created a new way of delivering gene-targeting drugs to the system via epidermal penetration. It's a nanostructure that's unique in its spherical shape and densely packed nucleic acids. Small interfering RNA (siRNA) surrounds a gold nanoparticle in a tight sphere, uniquely able to penetrate the epidermis. The structures RNA is then programmed to target specific disease causing genes, potentially like those behind melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma or psoriasis.


The nanoparticles were able to be combined with commercial moisturizer, and was able to effectively deeply penetrate both mouse and human skin, with the cells taking up 100% of the drug. The first round of gene therapy was aimed at epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a biomarker linked to a number of cancers.

In human skin equivalent, the EGFR expression dropped by 52% from 60 hours of treatment, without any signs of toxicity. Hopefully that means that in years to come, you'll be able to load up your Nivea with a nanoparticle designed to stop skin cancer in its tracks, and just simply rub it in to fight the disease.

Image: Lucky Business/Shutterstock

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