Drugs designed to eliminate tumors are notorious for nasty side effects. This occurs when the medicine ends up harming healthy cells. To counteract this unpleasant risk, researchers in Quebec have developed nanoparticles that only release a drug when exposed to near infrared light, which doctors could then beam onto a specific site that needs treatment.
Scientists and doctors have been attempting to develop a treatment similar to this for some time. Now that they’ve designed a targeted drug delivery system that responds to light, temperature, ultrasound, and pH changes, it will be extremely beneficial to their practices.
The drug carrying materials that are sensitive to ultraviolet light have a beam shone directly on them, which then causes the materials to release their therapeutic cargo at a designated location. UV light, however, cannot penetrate body issues, and it is also carcinogenic. A safer alternative would be near-infrared light, and can go through 1 – 2 centimeters of tissue; however, photosensitive drug carriers don’t react to it.
The scientists wished to bring both kinds of light together for one solution, so they started with nanoparticles that convert NIR light into UV light and then coated them in a UV sensitive hydrogel shell infused with a fluorescent protein, which is a stand in for drug molecules. The nanoparticles instantaneously converted to UV when exposed to NIR light, which induced the shell to release the protein payload.
It is noted by the researchers that their on demand delivery system could not only supply drug molecules but also agents for imaging and diagnostics.