Thursday, November 17, 2005

Way Cool

I just love stuff like this -- when smart people can take a new technology and make it into something really useful:

By coating the surfaces of tiny carbon nanotubes with monoclonal antibodies, biochemists and engineers at Jefferson Medical College and the University of Delaware have teamed up to detect cancer cells in a tiny drop of water. The work is aimed at developing nanotube-based biosensors that can spot cancer cells circulating in the blood from a treated tumor that has returned or from a new cancer......
The group took advantage of a surge in electrical current in nanotube-antibody networks when cancer cells bind to the antibodies. They placed microscopic carbon nanotubes between electrodes, and then covered them with monoclonal antibodies -– so-called guided protein missiles that home in on target protein "antigens" on the surface of cancer cells. The antibodies were specific for insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor (IGF1R), which is commonly found at high levels on cancer cells. They then measured the changes in electrical current through the antibody-nanotube combinations when two different types of breast cancer cells were applied to the devices......
"The breast cancer cells don't give a spike if there is a non-specific antibody on the nanotube," he says, "and cells without that target don't cause a current jump whatever antibody is on the nanotubes.
"This method could be used for detection and it could be used for recurring circulating tumor cells or micrometastases remaining from the originally treated tumor," Dr. Wickstrom explains.

This is only one example of the really great work medical researchers are doing with nanotechnology. The next steps will involve directly targeting tumor cells with "chemotherapy-armed" nanoparticles. Sort of reminds me of Fantastic Voyage, only without Raquel Welch's cleavage.