How diseases can be targeted using nanotechnology – and why it’s difficult
Publications , September 8, 2017

A recent article published in The Conversation by CBNS (Melbourne) CI, Professor Frank Caruso and CBNS (Imperial University, London) Research fellow, Dr Mattias Björnmalm.


Scientists are designing materials that are a thousand times smaller than the width of a hair.

Known as nanomaterials or nanoparticles, some could help treat diseases.

However, the engineering of particles for biomedical applications remains challenging, particularly when moving from the test tube to biological environments.

This is an issue we discussed in a recent paper. A nanoparticle in the lab is one thing, but a nanoparticle interacting with blood, cells and tissues is another, and the behaviour of particles can change considerably when moving from one environment to another.

“Bio-nano interactions” are what govern these changes in behaviour, and this is a research area with plenty of difficulties, but also significant rewards.

Using nanoparticles to target diseases

Nanoparticles could help create more effective medical treatments. The aim is to improve areas ranging from drug delivery to the detection of diseases.

One of the potential benefits of nanoparticles is the possibility of developing targeted therapies, so that drugs go exactly where they are needed in the body.

For example, many highly effective chemo-therapeutics exist today, but because they do not interact only with cancer cells but with healthy ones too, many of them have side effects such as heart and bone marrow damage. This limits their efficacy and plays a big role in why treating cancer can be so difficult.

Why is targeting so hard?

But targeted drug therapies using nanoparticles also remain limited. As in many other areas, what works in the laboratory can be difficult to translate into the clinic.

One example is the use of nanoparticles as “carriers” that are loaded with a drug and then accumulate at target cells………..

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