A group of health informatics expert from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill developed a technique wherein ATP is used to trigger the release of anti-cancer drugs into the cell within minimal distance from the nucleus. This ensures that the drug is released within the cell and not outside.
Health informatics researcher Dr. Zhen Gu, senior author of a paper on the research and an assistant professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill explains that the research is a matter of proof of concept. He says that what the study did was develop a novel technique in anti-cancer drug delivery, which should increase the effectiveness of the drug to inhibit cancer growth.
Lead author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher in the joint biomedical engineering program, Dr. Ran Mo, points out that this is the first time that ATP has been used to trigger the regulated release of anti-cancer medications.
Gu and his colleagues believe that the technique can be made more sophisticated and targeted by controlling the ATP levels in certain areas.
The research team conducted the study by synthesizing spherical nanoparticles which are coated with a shell with integrated hyaluronic acid (HA). This shell interacts with proteins on the cell surface of some cancer cells. This interaction enables the nanoparticles to be absorbed in the cell once it comes into contact with the surface of a targeted cancer cell.
Within the cell, the shell of the nanoparticles opens thus releasing its content, which is a cluster of DNA molecules incorporated with an anti-cancer drug doxorubicin (Dox). The DNA is set to unfold once it has detected high ATP levels, which is normally found within the cell. This ensures that the Dox is released near the nucleus of the cell.
When tested in vivo in mice models with breast cancer tumors, it was found that the mechanism which utilizes ATP as triggers is more effective in inhibiting tumor growth than other known methods.