Tiny treatment, big effect: Nanotechnology to treat bone cancer

Nanotechnology is more than just your ultra-thin smartphone or laptop. In fact, medical researchers’ newest nanotechnology development could save lives as a highly effective treatment for bone cancer.

Scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have engineered a system of nanoparticles that target bones, releasing drugs that kill tumour cells within them, stop the spread of cancer and promote the regrowth of healthy bone tissue.

What makes these nanoparticles work so well for bone treatments? They are coated with alendronate, a calcium-rich therapeutic agent that amasses in bones.

Since the nanoparticles are drawn to the calcium-laden bone tissue, they carry the drugs inside the alendronate coating directly to the affected area.

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Alendronate is already used to treat bone metastasis, or the spread of cancer to other bones. In this way, alendronate is not only directing the trajectory of the treatment, but stopping tumours from growing in healthy tissues.

As with many potential drugs, the treatment was first tested on mice. The mice were pre-treated with nanoparticles containing the bortezomib, an anti-cancer drug, injected with cancerous cells and then treated with the alendronate system.

The combination of pre-treatment and nanoparticle treatment increased bone strength, slowed the growth of the cancer cells and allowed the mice to live longer.

“These findings suggest that bone-targeted nanoparticle anti-cancer therapies offers a novel way to deliver a concentrated amount of drug in a controlled and target-specific manner to prevent tumor progression in multiple myeloma,” stated Dr Omid Farokhzad, co-senior author of the treatment study.

Indeed, this style of highly-targeted treatment is one of the great benefits of nanomedicine, as it causes fewer unintended effects on the rest of the body.

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Dr Irene Ghobrial, another co-senior study author, further explained the impact of the nanomedical treatment: “This work will pave the way for the development of innovative clinical trials in patients with myeloma to prevent progression from early precursor stages or in patients with breast, prostate or lung cancer who are at high-risk to develop bone metastasis.”

Between 60% and 80% of cancer patients develop bone metastasis, and nanotechnology could drastically decrease that number through both prevention in patients whose cancer could spread to their bones and treatment in those who already have bone tumours.

Perhaps the future will even see nanoparticle systems tailored to target different parts of the body, so that highly specific and efficient treatments become the norm until a cure is developed.


Steve “Woz” Wozniak to advise hologram emoji company that he calls “groundbreaking”

Apple’s co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak has found himself a new gig; Woz has joined the hologram emoji company, Mojiit, as an adviser.

In his role as advisor to Mojiit, the legendary entrepreneur and engineer will help assemble a world-class engineering team in addition to bringing investors and partnerships to the newly launched startup. Wozniak will also serve as mentor to Mojiit founder, Jeremy Greene.

“I’m thrilled to join Mojiit as an advisor,” said Wozniak. “Jeremy is a natural leader, the company is groundbreaking, it’s going to change the ecommerce space, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Created in 2017, Mojiit is the latest startup technology venture from Greene. The company’s tech essentially enables users to project and share 3D hologram emojis via smartphones.

The platform turns users into emojis by scanning their face, which can then be sent to loved ones and friends. Once a Mojiit message is received, it will map the area where it is received and place the Mojiit hologram there in real time, so it works in a similar way to Pokemon Go.

“Steve is one of the best and brilliant engineers in the entire world. But outside of that, he’s a wonderful man,” said Greene. “There isn’t anyone I’d want to be in business with more than this guy. He’s a legend. Who better to learn from than the guy who created the computer?”

Image courtesy of Nichollas Harrison. Featured image courtesy of Mojiit

In addition to consumer use, businesses of all kinds can tap into hologram emojis with Mojiit’s technology.

Mojiit investors already  include NFL alum Ed Reed, and the company was able to raise a total of $1 million in its seed round of funding.

Alongside the appointment of Woz, Entourage and Ballers producer Rob Weiss recently joined the company as a creative director.

“It’s exciting to expand beyond television and film to digital platforms,” said Weiss. “Hologram technology brings incredible opportunity to entertainment and media. I’m thrilled to be leading creative at Mojiit.”

Nanoengineers send antibiotic-delivering micromotors into the body to treat cancer-causing infection

Nanoengineers have demonstrated for the first time how “micromotors” that measure half the width of a human hair can be used to transport antibiotics through the body.

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego tested the micromotors in mice with Helicobacter pylori infections, which can also be found in about two-thirds of the world’s population and while many people will never notice any signs of its presence it can cause peptic ulcers and stomach cancer.

The mice received the micromotors – packed with a clinical dose of the antibiotic clarithromycin – orally once a day for five consecutive days.

Afterwards, nanoengineers evaluated the bacterial count in each mouse stomach and found that treatment with the micromotors was slightly more effective than when the same dose of antibiotic was given in combination with proton pump inhibitors, which also suppress gastric acid production.

Micromotors administered to the mice swam rapidly throughout the stomach while neutralising gastric acid, which can be destructive to orally administered drugs such as antibiotics and protein-based pharmaceuticals.

Because gastric acid is so destructive to traditional antibiotics drugs used to treat bacterial infections, ulcers and other diseases in the stomach are normally taken with additional substances, called proton pump inhibitors.

But when taken over longer periods or in high doses, proton pump inhibitors can cause adverse side effects including headaches, diarrhea and fatigue. In more serious cases, they can cause anxiety or depression.

The micromotors, however, have a built-in mechanism that neutralises gastric acid and effectively deliver their drug payloads in the stomach without requiring the use of proton pump inhibitors.

“It’s a one-step treatment with these micromotors, combining acid neutralisation with therapeutic action,” said Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila, a postdoctoral scholar in Wang’s research group at UC San Diego and a co-first author of the paper.

The nanoengineers say that while the present results are promising, this work is still at an early stage.

To test their work, the team is planning future studies to into the therapeutic performance of the micromotors in animals and humans, and will compare it with other standard therapies used to combat stomach diseases.

UC San Diego nanoengineers also plan to test different drug combinations with the micromotors to treat multiple diseases in the stomach or in different sections of the gastrointestinal tract.

Overall, the researchers say that this work opens the door to the use of synthetic motors as active delivery platforms in the treatment of diseases.

Image and video courtesy of the Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics at UC San Diego.