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Researchers develop nanoparticles that can deliver chemotherapy drug to brain, help kill cancer cells

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A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created a human tissue model to demonstrate the workings of nanoparticles. Cancer types such as glioblastoma have high mortality rates and are difficult to treat because of the blood–brain barrier. The barrier does not allow most chemotherapy drugs to enter through the blood vessels around the brain, therefore hindering efforts to treat cancer.

Now, the team of researchers has developed nanoparticles that can carry drugs and penetrate tumors, killing glioblastoma cells.

To test the efficiency of the nanoparticles, researchers have devised a method and built a model that replicates the blood-brain barrier. The brain tissue model is described in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We’re hoping that by testing these nanoparticles in more realistic models, we can cut a lot of the time and energy wasted in the clinic trying things that don’t work,” said Charles W. and Joel Strehla. Told. At MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Jennifer C. Johnson Clinical Investigator and lead author of the study.

To replicate the complex structure of the brain, the researchers used patient-derived glioblastoma cells grown in a microfluidic device. Then, human endothelial cells were used to grow blood vessels in small tubes surrounding the area of ​​tumor cells. They also included two types of cells, namely pericytes and astrocytes that are associated with the transport of molecules through the blood–brain barrier.

A layer-by-layer-assembly technique was used in a laboratory to create the nanoparticles. The particles used in the study are coated with a peptide called AP2 that was found to be effective in helping the nanoparticles penetrate the blood-brain barrier.

Researchers have tested the nanoparticles in tissue models of both healthy brain tissue and glioblastoma tissue. It is observed that the particles coated with AP2 peptide moved efficiently through the vessels surrounding the tumor.

Next, the particles were filled with a chemotherapy drug known as cisplatin and coated with a target peptide. The researchers noted that the coated particles were able to kill the glioblastoma tumor cells in the model, while those not coated by AP2 damaged healthy blood vessels.

“We observed an increase in cell death in tumors that were treated with a peptide-coated nanoparticle compared to bare nanoparticles or free drug. Those coated particles showed greater specificity to kill tumors,” said Cynthia Hjal, another lead author of the study. Visible, versus hitting everything in a non-specific way.

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