The big barrier in the wider applications of nanoparticles in medicine has been removed. This follows the development of a new screening technique to select the best biocompatible nanoparticles for use in diagnosis and therapeutic tasks.
So far the screening has been hard and time-consuming with the risk of high unpredictability of the immune system's response to such foreign molecules, hampering the expanded use of nanoparticles in the medical sector.
Now a pathbreaking screening method has been developed that is claimed to be superior in terms of speed, safety, and cost efficiency.
The new screening technology was developed by researchers at the universities of Geneva (UNIGE) and Fribourg (UNIFR).
Already the virus-sized nanoparticles have been found useful in biomedicine. In oncology, nanoparticles can treat patients in a less painful way.
The details of the research have been reported in the journal Nanoscale.
Why Is Screening Important?
"Researchers can spend years developing a nanoparticle, without knowing what impact it will have on a living organism," explained Carole Bourquin, a professor in the medicine and science faculties at UNIGE and project leader.
She said the new design offers an effective screening method and is actionable at the very beginning of the development process. It saves the nanoparticle research from going to waste in case the nanoparticles are not compatible.
The process of testing the nanoparticles' compatibility used to take many months. The new screening method has cut that time to less than a week.
Nanoparticles measuring 1 to 100 nanometers have many medical applications as markers for diagnosis. Another area of use is applying therapeutic molecules to the right spot in the body where the drug must act.
However, the wider use in medicine has been stonewalled by the need to prove their safety for the body and the power to bypass the immune system in making the impact felt.
Three Vital Parameters
In the human body, when a foreign element enters, the immune system becomes active, with the cells named macrophages ingesting the invaders and kick-starting the immune response.
In the new screening method, care has been taken to address all the three parameters that hamper a nanoparticle from becoming biocompatible: toxicity, potential to activate the immune system, and ingestion by the macrophages.
Ideally, a medical nanoparticle should not harm the cells and be completely consumed by the macrophages. It must survive the immune system to exert itself without any side effects.
For the successful outcome, the researchers used flow cytometry to balance all the three parameters safely and in reduced time.
In the tests, macrophages were brought into contact with the nanoparticles and then subjected to laser beams. The activation levels are determined by the fluorescent emissions.
The process helped in testing all the three important elements simultaneously using a few particles and it gave a comprehensive diagnosis of the sample.
Nano Use In Cancer
Meanwhile, a research on "Manufacturing and evaluating the effectiveness of drug delivery systems of targeted nanostructures onto cancer cells" by Vietnamese scientist Ha Phuong Thu has said the high efficacy of a nanoparticle drug delivery system will hike the impact of medicines on cancer cells. The advantages include a reduction in the volume of drug use and better focus on the tumors without causing harm to the healthy cells.