Nano-bubbles triggered by X-ray can target cancer

Scientists have developed nano-bubbles that can deliver drugs in the body when triggered by standard X-rays and may pave the way for a new range of cancer treatments.

The tiny bubbles, known as liposomes, are commonly used in pharmacology to encapsulate drugs, making them more effective in the treatment of disease.

Researchers were able to engineer these liposomes to discharge their drug cargo on-demand, once activated by standard X-rays. Initial testing has shown this technique to be highly efficient in killing bowel cancer cells.

“The development and application of various nanomaterial designs for drug delivery is currently a key focus area in nanomedicine,” said Wei Deng, a scientist at Macquarie University in Australia. “Liposomes are already well established as an extremely effective drug-delivery system,” said Ms. Deng.

“Made out of similar material as cell membranes, these ‘bubbles’ are relatively simple to prepare, can be filled with appropriate medications and then injected into specific parts of the body,” she said. The issue, however, is in controlling the timely release of the drug from the liposome,” she added. “We have ensured that the liposomes release drug pay-load at exactly the right time and in exactly the right place to ensure the most effective treatment,” said Ms. Deng.

Timely delivery

“Our X-ray triggerable liposomes allow this on-demand drug-release to occur,” she said.“The approach we took was to embed gold nanoparticles and the photo-sensitive molecule verteporfin into the wall of the liposome,” she added.

The radiation from the X-ray causes the verteporfin to react and to produce highly reactive singlet oxygen which then destabilises the liposomal membrane, causing the release of the drug, researchers said.

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