Magnet-based Drug Delivery SystemTo Fight Cancer

A team of researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA)  has developed a non-invasive method of delivering drugs directly to cancerous tissue using magnetic forces, a form of treatment that could significantly reduce the toxic side effects of chemotherapy.

We showed that we can deliver anti-cancer drugs exactly in the area where they are needed and they can kill cancer cells,” said Andrey Zakharchenko, a graduate student in the Nanostructured Materials Lab in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences who led the study.

The researchers from UGA and Clarkson University in New York first created very fine nanoparticles that acted as drug carriers, one a substrate base carrying the drugs, and the other loaded with enzymes.

Upon application of a relatively weak magnetic field, the two nanoparticles merge, forcing a reaction that releases the drugs at a specific location. By controlling the timing of the interaction, researchers could pinpoint delivery of the drug to a precise location, thus preventing side common side effects of chemotherapy, such as hair loss or cardiac toxicity. Researchers performed the proof of concept study in vitro using chemotherapy drugs and cancer cells. The next step would be to develop an animal model, Zakharchenko said.

The use of a static magnetic field to cause the reaction is important because it poses no threat to the body, said Sergiy Minko, the Georgia Power Professor of Fiber and Polymer Science within the FACS department of textiles, merchandising and interiors and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of chemistry.

The article appears in the January issue of the journal Nature Catalysis


Inhibited On/Off Switch Protein Could Prevent Prostate Cancer

Researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) have created a new therapeutic for prostate cancer that has shown great efficacy in mouse models of the disease. The treatment is designed to inhibit the activity of a protein called PAK-1, which contributes to the development of highly invasive prostate cancer cells. Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among men of all races.


PAK-1 is kind of like an on/off switch,” said study co-author Somanath Shenoy, an associate professor in UGA‘s College of Pharmacy. “When it turns on, it makes cancerous cells turn into metastatic cells that spread throughout the body.

With the help of Brian Cummings, an associate professor in UGA‘s College of Pharmacy, the researchers developed a way to package and administer a small molecule called IPA-3, which limits the activity of PAK-1 proteins.

Researchers have published their findings recently in the journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine.


How To Produce Massively Nanofibers

Researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) have developed an inexpensive way to manufacture extraordinarily thin polymer strings commonly known as nanofibers. These polymers can be made from natural materials like proteins or from human-made substances to make plastic, rubber or fiber, including biodegradable materials. The new method, dubbed “magnetospinning” by the researchers, provides a very simple, scalable and safe means for producing very large quantities of nanofibers that can be embedded with a multitude of materials, including live cells and drugs. Many thousands of times thinner than the average human hair, nanofibers are used by medical researchers to create advanced wound dressings—and for tissue regeneration, drug testing, stem cell therapies and the delivery of drugs directly to the site of infection. They are also used in other industries to manufacture fuel cells, batteries, filters and light-emitting screens.

The process we have developed makes it possible for almost anyone to manufacture high-quality nanofibers without the need for expensive equipment,” said Sergiy Minko, study co-author and the Georgia Power Professor of Polymers, Fibers and Textiles in UGA‘s College of Family and Consumer Sciences. “This not only reduces costs, but it also makes it possible for more businesses and researchers to experiment with nanofibers without worrying too much about their budget.”

Currently, the most common nanofiber manufacturing technique—electrospinning—uses high-voltage electricity and specially designed equipment to produce the polymer strings. Equipment operators must have extensive training to use the equipment safely.

In contrast to other nanofiber spinning devices, most of the equipment used in our device is very simple,” Minko said. “Essentially, all you need is a magnet, a syringe and a small motor.”


Nanoparticles Reprogram Immune Cells To Attack Cancer

Researchers at the University of Georgia are developing a new treatment technique that uses nanoparticles to reprogram immune cells so they are able to recognize and attack cancer.
The human body operates under a constant state of martial law. Chief among the enforcers charged with maintaining order is the immune system, a complex network that seeks out and destroys the hordes of invading bacteria and viruses that threaten the organic society as it goes about its work. The immune system is good at its job, but it’s not perfect. Most cancerous cells, for example, are able to avoid detection by the immune system because they so closely resemble normal cells, leaving the cancerous cells free to multiply and grow into life-threatening tumors while the body’s only protectors remain unaware. Shanta Dhar and her colleagues are giving the immune system a boost through their research.

immunity and cancer

What we are working on is specifically geared toward breast cancer,” said Dhar, the study’s co-author and an assistant professor of chemistry in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “Our paper reports for the first time that we can stimulate the immune system against breast cancer cells using mitochondria-targeted nanoparticles and light using a novel pathway.

The findings were published recently in the early online edition of ACS Nano.

How To Harvest Electricity From Plants

Researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) looked to nature for inspiration, and they are now developing a new technology that makes it possible to use plants to generate electricity. The sun provides the most abundant source of energy on the planet. However, only a tiny fraction of the solar radiation on Earth is converted into useful energy. Plants are the undisputed champions of solar power. After billions of years of evolution, most of them operate at nearly 100 percent quantum efficiency, meaning that for every photon of sunlight a plant captures, it produces an equal number of electrons. Converting even a fraction of this into electricity would improve upon the efficiency seen with solar panels, which generally operate at efficiency levels between 12 and 17 percent. During photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to split water atoms into hydrogen and oxygen, which produces electrons. These newly freed electrons go on to help create sugars that plants use much like food to support growth and reproduction.
We have developed a way to interrupt photosynthesis so that we can capture the electrons before the plant uses them to make these sugars,” said Ramajara Ramasamy, an assitant Professor in the UGA College of Engineering and member of UGA’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center.
Clean energy is the need of the century,” added Ramaraja Ramasamy, corresponding author of a paper describing the process in the Journal of Energy and Environmental Science. “This approach may one day transform our ability to generate cleaner power from sunlight using plant-based systems.”