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Question Your World: What's a Cloaked Nanoparticle?

Everyone’s familiar with the old fable about the wolf in sheep’s clothing. In this story a wolf dresses up like a sheep and sneaks past the farmer to go straight to his fluffy targets. Well, a similar story is currently unfolding in the medical field and it could have a huge impact on cancer patients. Check out the latest Question Your World Radio Report from the Science Museum of Virginia.

Scientists are working on taking a nanoparticle and wrapping it in the outer membrane of a white blood cell in order to let it sneak past the watchful eye of the immune system. As of now the immune system is able to detect foreign objects like nanoparticles and remove or destroy them within minutes. Dressing the nanoparticle up to look like a white blood cell allows the immune system to let it pass into the bloodstream without much commotion. These camouflaged medical deliveries could last in the body for several hours at a time. Remarkably, these nanoparticles would go directly to the source of the malignant cells. In other words, these nanoparticles can deliver specific types of drugs to specific cells. In this instance the idea is that chemotherapy could be delivered straight to cancer cells only.

This would be a huge step forward in the medical field. Currently the most commonly accepted form of cancer treatments involve a broad range treatment, meaning we have yet to isolate the treatment to only cancer cells. These masked nanoparticles, in theory, would be able to go straight to the malignant cells and let the rest of the body system carry on as business per usual.

Research on this is continuing and hopefully more news will develop as the work continues.

Article by Prabir Mehta, Science Museum of Virginia

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