Nanotechnology – good things in small packages

With more than 60 FDA-approved drugs containing nanomaterials [1], not to mention nanotech that builds and repairs, it’s time to take a deeper-dive into the nano-world.

Earlier this week we looked at some of the ways nanotechnology is revolutionising detection and diagnosis. Now we turn our attention to nano-delivery. Nanomedicine might be speeding-up how quickly aging and diseases are detected, but that information is next to useless unless we can do something about it.

Longevity.Technology: Treatment can be as harmful as the disease that warranted it. Nanotech offers real solutions that can target the cause of harm, while avoiding toxicity, like chemotherapy, for example, that is associated with the treatment.

According to figures from Alzheimer’s Disease International, “Dementia is the biggest killer in the UK, and the fifth biggest globally.
In receipt of EU-wide certification, Magforce‘s NanoTherm therapy involves injecting iron oxide nanoparticles directly into a tumour (rather like a biopsy). The next treatment stage is to place the patient in a machine that produces an alternating magnetic field which causes the nanoparticles to generate heat directly inside the tumour tissue (but perfectly safe for the patient!)

The cancerous tumour cells are either destroyed directly or rendered susceptible to additional chemotherapy or radiation treatments, depending on the temperature reached and the duration of exposure to the magnetic field. Treating tumours is an invasive, expensive and often debilitating process; Magforce’s elegant solution could be the treatment of the future.

The company recently increased the capital of its subsidiary MagForce USA – raising $4.5m to fund stage 2 of MagForce’s clinical trial for the focal treatment of prostate cancer, and to prepare for commercialisation.

University of California, Irvine researchers have developed a nanotechnology treatment derived from bone marrow stem cells which has been able to reverse multiple sclerosis symptoms.

Although still in the mice experimentation stage, the research team hopes the new technology will even eventually be used to help humans. The nano-sized particles called exosomes, which are chock-full of anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective RNA and protein molecules, have the ability to sneak across the blood-spinal cord barrier. Not only does this clever nanotech rejuvenate lost motor skills and decrease MS-related nerve damage, but it reboots subject’s immune systems. This is something conventional drugs simply cannot do.

Researchers from the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital in Boston developed mRNA nanoparticles that reintroduces functional copies of PTEN, a tumour suppressant, into cancer cells. This switches back on the body’s natural tumour-suppressing mechanisms and slows cancer growth. The technology is still being tested in the lab, but could provide a real weapon in the fight against cancer.

Nanobiotix advertises itself as not focusing on biology or chemistry, but on “physical principles at nanoscale”.

NBTXR3, its radioenhancer hafnium oxide nanoparticle is able to improve the efficiency of radiation in tumour cells without increasing the dose received by surrounding healthy tissues. By interacting with X-rays, the nanoparticles are able to maximise the effects of radiotherapy and are designed for a single direct injection into the tumour. 50-60% of cancer patients receive radiotherapy, so the potential market and number of people benefiting is not remotely nano in scale.

An international research team bringing together scientists from Thamar University in Yemen, the University of British Columbia, Cairo University, The British University in Egypt and the National Research Center in Cairo has been researching diamond nanoparticles due to their bio-compatibility as drug delivery platforms, their outstanding surface properties and their ability to traverse the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB). The team believes that nanodiamond technology could provide a drug delivery system that could shuttle several drugs through the notoriously-difficult blood-brain barrier (BBB), and that end have been experimenting with Amlodipine.

This is a calcium channel blocker that cannot pass through BBB, but which is thought to encourage neuro-protective effects that can reverse calcium-induced excitotoxicity and mitochondrial dysfunction that are partly responsible for several neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. Encouraging results mean these crazy diamonds are set to shine on.

Nature is already working at the bioscale and has perfected its biology in that realm; as our nano-detection and nano-delivery improves, so to will our ability to understand and manipulate biology and therefore to understand and manipulate aging. One small step for nano, one giant leap for Longevity.


Image credit: Pete Linforth / Pixabay