Watching the Targeting Improve

The cost of research into bio- and nanotechnologies for targeting therapies to specific cells is falling. I can tell this is the case because rapid progress is being made, especially in connection to cancer, but also in relation to immune system and other work. Prior to the point in the development cycle at which groups become completely channeled and weighed down by regulation, it is still possible for rapid innovation to florish. Here's one example:

Recent research into a new kind of photodynamic therapy has concentrated on using single-walled carbon nanotubes, combined with near-infrared light, to generate heat to kill cancer cells. Now, Chongmu Lee and colleagues from Inha University, Korea, have substituted the carbon nanotubes with a porous silicon nanomaterial, which they claim can generate as much heat as the carbon nanotubes, with the added bonus of producing much smaller amounts of reactive oxygen species.

Photodynamic therapy uses the same sorts of targeting and delivery mechanisms as other modern therapies, but the delivery is of an inert substance that can be efficiently heated with low-level radiation - killing specific cells without widespread tissue damage. Unfortunately, if you produce significant amounts of reactive oxygen species and other free radicals in the process of heating, then you do wind up causing some level of widespread damage. The incremental improvement reported above is one of many taking place worldwide in this broad field; let the engineers in and this is what happens. There's always room for improvement in every technology, and that improvement will be found by someone - provided the cost of experimentation is low.

The scientific paper is freely available also:

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a very useful approach for cancer treatment, but it has a few short-term and long-term side effects arising from reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation. Recently a new photodynamic therapy (PDT) based not on the ROS generation capability of photosensitizers but on the heat generation capability of carbon nanotubes (CNT) combined with a near-infrared (NIR) light irradiation technique has received significant attention. Our experimental results show that PSi can also be utilized as a therapeutic agent that generates sufficient heat to kill cancer cells without toxicity. The surface temperature of PSi increases as high and as quickly as that of CNT, but PSi was found to produce a smaller amount of ROS than CNT during NIR light irradiation. In addition, we developed a new method to effectively measure the amount of the ROS produced by nanomaterial photosensitizers including porous silicon (PSi) and CNT. The analysis results show that this method is reliable and reproducible.

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