Researchers have found that specially engineered gold nanoparticles have the ability to disrupt the blood supply to cancerous tumours.
A team led by Dr Antonios Kanaras showed that these nanoparticles can activate or inhibit genes that are involved in angiogenesis — a complex process responsible for the supply of oxygen and nutrients to most types of cancer.
‘The peptide-functionalised gold nanoparticles that we synthesised are very effective in the deliberate activation or inhibition of angiogenic genes,’ said Kanaras.
The team is said to have gone a step further by controlling the degree of damage to the endothelial cells using laser illumination. Endothelial cells construct the interior of blood vessels and play a pivotal role in angiogenesis. The researchers also found that the gold particles could be used as effective tools in cellular nanosurgery.
‘We have found that gold nanoparticles can have a dual role in cellular manipulation,’ said Kanaras. ‘Applying laser irradiation, we can use the nanoparticles either to destroy endothelial cells, as a measure to cut the blood supply to tumours, or to deliberately open up the cellular membrane in order to deliver a drug efficiently.’
The researchers are almost midway through their research, with their main aim being to develop a complete nanotechnology toolkit to manipulate angiogenesis. They are currently looking for funding to make this a reality within five to 10 years.