Researchers from Northwestern University have developed a novel way to track how nanoparticles interact with cancer cells and whether they reach their tagets. The team’s work shows that if a nanoparticle targets cancer cells, it undergoes more rotational and translational movement compared to nanoparticles that cannot target cancer cells effectively. This exciting development can be used to screen different nanoparticle formulations based on size, charge, shape, and targeting molecule to see if they are effectively targeting cancer cells in vitro in order to develop new more effective nanomedicine cancer therapies.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer treatments often harm healthy tissues along with cancer. This can lead to pain and dangerous side effects. Nanomedicine has long sought to serve as a targeted treatment to effectively fight cancer with fewer side effects. Yet, various proteins bind nanoparticles in the body, which may prevent nanoparticles from targeting cancer cells and working effectively. In order to characterize whether nanoparticles are targeting cancer cells, the researchers developed new imaging techniques and studied particle movements in vitro.
They first chemically synthesized gold nanostars (AuNS). One batch of gold nanostars was designed to target cancer cells. Then, the researchers cultured cancer cells in media that contains proteins to mimic how human blood proteins bind to nanoparticles. They then introduced the gold nanostars. The team developed and used a custom microscope in order to carefully study how the nanostars interact with cancer cells and tracked the nanoparticle movements.
They found that even though both targeting and non-targeting AuNS had similar proteins binding to their surfaces, they had very different interactions with the cancer cells. They also ound that non-targeting AuNS did not move very far, and did not have many rotational movements, whereas targeting AuNS moved much further around on the cancer cell surface, and underwent many rotations.
This technology can be used to study new nanoparticle formulations in vitro and see whether the specific size, shape, charge, and other nanoparticle properties allow it to effectively target cancer cells.
The publication in ACS Nano: Resolving Single-Nanoconstruct Dynamics during Targeting and Nontargeting Live-Cell Membrane Interactions