The study, led by Dr Vadim Sumbayev, of the University’s Medway School of Pharmacy (MSP), shows that gold nanoparticles that are smaller than protein molecules can be used to either identify the abnormalities in blood cells that signify leukaemia or better deliver the drugs needed to fight the disease.
The findings, showing that gold nanoparticles can be used as drug delivery platforms, are highly significant since chemotherapy of leukaemia is often problematic as the drugs used are generally toxic and could kill other growing and quickly proliferating cells such as stem cells, thus affecting recovery.
The researchers found that gold nanoparticles demonstrated a ‘reasonable level of biocompatability’ as well as anti-inflammatory properties and an inability to affect cells on their own, making these materials an excellent drug delivery platform.
The targeted nano-carrier was able to deliver otherwise toxic drugs into leukaemia cells with a high degree of efficiency through the surface receptor Tim-3, which cells produce naturally upon malignant transformation.
Because this immune receptor Tim-3 is expressed by leukaemia cells that are malignantly transformed, compared to healthy leukocytes, it can be used as a receptor for targeted drug-delivery.
The study, entitled Highly specific targeting of human acute myeloid leukaemia cells using pharmacologically active nonoconjugates, (Dr Sumbayev, Inna M. Yasinska, Medway School of Pharmacy; et al), was published in Nanoscale, the Journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.