Brain Cancer Treatment: Shaken, Not Stirred

Cancers of the brain are truly some of the worst forms of the disease. While they might not kill the most people or have the highest rate of metastasis, there are relatively few methods available for their treatment. Brain surgery, while no longer analogous to scooping ice cream from a tub, does not yet have the precision to consistently remove cancerous cells without damaging healthy ones. Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory are developing a new technology that has the potential to change all that, and to drastically alter the way we treat brain cancer in the future.

Nanotechnology will revolutionize many medical practices, but in few will it be as groundbreaking as the treatment of brain cancer. Scientists at the ANL are working at the forefront of this new wave of research. They engineered nanoscale objects that are made of iron-nickel and can be magnetized. These disc-shaped nanomachines are designed to attach themselves to specific antibodies in the blood stream that show a preference for fighting cancerous growth in the brain.  After the nanobots hitch-hike to the cancer cells, they drop off and stick to the nearest malignant growth. There they easel back and wait for further instructions. Doctors then create an alternating magnetic field around the patient’s head which causes the nanomachines to vibrate at a high frequency.  This shaking produces sufficient trauma to the cancerous cell to initiate apoptosis (cellular suicide). This process of cell death is ideal, as neighboring cells clean up the remains naturally through a process called efferocytosis.

This research is still confined to the petree dish, and is a long way from use in humans. It shows great promise though, and is an amazing and innovative example of the bounty offered by nanotechnology. Did I mention that this research is funded by the Department of Energy?  Sounds like a good use of our tax dollars to me.


~ by Wil Finley on February 18, 2010.

One Response to “Brain Cancer Treatment: Shaken, Not Stirred”

  1. Some day they’ll say, can you believe that doctors used to remove the skull and cut into the brain? How barbaric.

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