Researchers at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center are using monoclonal antibodies to guide carbon nanotubes to lymphoma cells. Once there, they can be heated using infrared radiation to destroy the tumor they’re attached to. The technology is currently in animal trials, but because a number of similar approaches are in the works, we may soon see nanotube based thermal ablations available in your local clinic.
In this study, the researchers used monoclonal antibodies that targeted specific sites on lymphoma cells to coat tiny structures called carbon nanotubes.
In cultures of cancerous lymphoma cells, the antibody-coated nanotubes attached to the cells’ surfaces. When the targeted cells were then exposed to near-infrared light, the nanotubes heated up, generating enough heat to essentially “cook” the cells and kill them. Nanotubes coated with an unrelated antibody neither bound to nor killed the tumor cells.
“Using near-infrared light for the induction of hyperthermia is particularly attractive because living tissues do not strongly absorb radiation in this range,” said Dr. Ellen Vitetta, director of the Cancer Immunobiology Center at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study. “Once the carbon nanotubes have bound to the tumor cells, an external source of near-infrared light can be used to safely penetrate normal tissues and kill the tumor cells.
The use of carbon nanotubes to destroy cancer cells with heat is being explored by several research groups, but the new study is the first to show that both the antibody and the carbon nanotubes retained their physical properties and their functional abilities — binding to and killing only the targeted cells. This was true even when the antibody-nanotube complex was placed in a setting designed to mimic conditions inside the human body.
Full story: Nanotechnology, Biomolecules And Light Unite To ‘Cook’ Cancer Cells…
Abstract in PNAS: Thermal ablation of tumor cells with antibody-functionalized single-walled carbon nanotubes PNAS June 24, 2008 vol. 105 no. 25 8697-8702
Image credit: ghutchis