Scientists at Korea’s Institute for Basic Science (IBS) are designing the drug delivery technology to minimise the side effects of chemotherapy on healthy tissues.
According to study author Kyeng Min Park, the technology was developed unexpectedly when IBS researchers at Korea’s Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) saw that mono-allyloxylated cucurbituril (A01CB) molecules act as surfactants in water.
“Seeing AO1CB forming a cloudy solution when shaken in water was an unexpected surprise for the team,” he said in a statement.
Further, the tail of the molecule can be modified under light, in order to collapse the nanocontainer and release its cargo, he explained: “We thought that we could use this as an on-demand light-responsive drug delivery vehicle.”
Researchers used a near infrared two-photon laser to penetrate the tissues.
“We used a long wavelength of light to do this, which has benefits including low energy photons – therefore inflicting less damage on cells and tissue,” he told us.
The researchers have conducted cell-level studies with the chemotherapeutic drug Doxorubicin, to investigate its effectiveness on cervical cancer cells.
The studies revealed Doxorubicin exited the vesicles, reached the nucleus of the cancer cells, and eventually killed them.
“We were able to kill cancer cells in a petri dish by irradiating the drug-loaded nanocontainer,” Park explained.
The cell-level studies represent a proof of concept at the moment, he said: “In vivo studies – in animals for example – need to be performed before licensing agreements can be considered.”