Drill That Kills Cancer Cells Developed
Researchers successfully activated the motors with precise two-photon excitation via near-infrared light. Unlike the ultraviolet light they first used to drive the motors, the new technique does not damage adjacent, healthy cells.
The research led by various chemists may be best applied to the skin, oral, and gastrointestinal cancer cells that can be reached for treatment with a laser.
In 2017, the same team reported the development of molecular motors enhanced with small proteins that target specific cancer cells.
Once in place and activated with light, the paddle-like motors spin up to 3 million times a second, allowing the molecules to drill through the cells’ protective membranes and killing them in minutes.
Since then, researchers have worked on the way to eliminate the use of damaging ultraviolet light. As per a researcher, multiphoton activation is not only more biocompatible but also allows deeper tissue penetration and removes any unwanted side effects that may arise with the previously used UV light.
The researchers tested their updated motors on skin, breast, cervical, and prostate cancer cells in the lab. Once the motors found their targets, lasers activated them with a precision of about 200 nanometers. In most cases, the cells were dead within three minutes, they reported.
They believe the motors also drill through chromatin and other components of the diseased cells
, which could help slow metastasis.
Because the motors target specific cells, Tour said work is underway to adapt them to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria as well. Researchers claim they continue to perfect the molecular motors, aiming toward ones that will work with visible light and provide even higher efficacies of kill toward the cellular targets.