Cancer is an incurable disease, and scientists are coming up with innovative ways to fight it. Now, a new study has found that iron nanowires can use heat, vibration and drugs to attack cancer cells in a three-pronged way. The nanowires are only 30 to 40 nanometers thick and are made of iron cores encased in iron oxide shells. The idea for scientists is to insert them into tumors and then induce them to attack cancer cells in a variety of ways.
By exposing the wires to low-power magnetic fields, they begin to vibrate, physically tearing the edges of the target cells, and if hit by near-infrared light from the laser, the wires heat up and transmit the deadly heat directly to the cells.
In addition, the team used an anti-cancer drug called amycin to coat the outside of the nanowire. These drug molecules are connected to joints sensitive to changes in pH, so they dissolve only in cancer cells, which are usually more acidic than healthy cells. This means that these drugs will only be delivered where they are needed.
The team tested the technique on tumors grown in the lab and found that nanowires can kill about 90 percent of cancer cells. This makes this triple threat more effective than any other individual approach. In addition, due to the targeted treatment, it minimizes side effects on healthy cells.
The key to success, the team says, is to make nanowires out of iron, because metals are easily heated and affected by magnetic fields, so it’s still technically difficult. But most importantly, iron has been shown to be safe for use in the human body and is a vital natural mineral in the body.
“Taken together, the capabilities of ferro-based nanomaterials make it very promising in creating biomedical nanorobots, which will revolutionise the healthcare sector,” said j?rgen Kosel, lead researcher on the study. “While this may seem like a breakthrough in the future, it’s going well. “
The study was carried out by researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and CIC biomaGUNE. The study was published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.