Hairy nanocrystals trap chemo-drugs

Penn State researchers, in collaboration with employees, have developed a nanomaterial that can “wipe up” chemotherapeutic agents in the bloodstream and thus help reduce undesirable effects. The technology is intended for use in situations where a chemotherapy drug can be delivered precisely to the tumor site, rather than in situations where it is administered systemically. The cellulose particles have a large number of polymer chain “hairs” that stick out at each end, increasing their ability to bind drug molecules in the blood.

Chemotherapy can be incredibly difficult for patients undergoing treatment, with an extensive list of serious side effects caused by off-target toxicity in the body. Researchers are refining chemotherapy delivery by developing a series of nanoparticles and biomaterial slides designed to reduce the amount of free drug reaching the systemic circulation and maximize effectiveness at a tumor site.

One such advanced approach involves administering chemotherapy directly to the site of a tumor using a catheter. So far, this is best for tumors in certain organs, such as the liver, where the drug can be delivered into a blood vessel that carries the blood directly to the organ. However, as the drug is released near the target site, much of it still gets into the systemic circulation and causes side effects.

“Clean-up” technology could play a role here. The aim of this approach is to bind the free drug in circulation and thus render it as harmless as possible. Current methods of achieving this, however, are suboptimal.

“To reduce the adverse effects of cancer drugs during and after localized chemotherapy, it is necessary to eliminate their systemic circulation,” said Amir Sheikhi, a researcher involved in the latest study. “Available and proposed platforms for removing unwanted drugs – primarily the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin (DOX) – from the blood are extremely ineffective because they do not remove enough of the drug to prevent damage. We have developed a highly efficient approach that detects DOX with a capacity more than 3,200% higher than other platforms, such as DNA-based materials. “

This new technology consists of cellulose, an important part of plant cell walls. To create the hairy crystals, the researchers chemically treated cellulose from softwood pulp and charged it negatively, which means that it is more stable in the blood and can also bind positively charged drug molecules such as doxorubicin. So far, the researchers have been able to show that 1 gram of the particles can bind about 6 grams of doxorubicin in the serum.

“We found that the hairy cellulose nanocrystals bind to positively charged drugs in human serum and instantly capture DOX without causing cytotoxicity or hemolytic effects,” said Sheikhi. “We envision that this potent, non-toxic nanoparticle could be a building block for the next generation of devices to trap excess drugs and remove unwanted molecules like psychedelics and toxins from the body.”

Study of materials chemistry today: Development of hairy cellulosic nanocrystals for the capture of chemotherapy drugs

Over: Penn State

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