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  • Dr Robert Pal

Light Powered Molecules Penetrate Cells

Oct 20 2017 Read 301 Times

A technique that has turned molecules into machines capable of drilling holes in the membranes of individual cells, including cancerous ones, shows promise for either bringing therapeutic agents into the cells or directly inducing the cells to die.

Dr Robert Pal at Durham University’s Department of Chemistry and Biophysical Sciences Institute thinks that nanomachines could prove to be effective against a range of cancers including those that resist currently available treatments.

He worked with researchers at Rice and North Carolina State universities in the USA to demonstrate in laboratory tests how rotors in single-molecule nanomachines can be activated by ultraviolet light to spin at two to three million rotations per second; test motors designed to target prostate cancer cells broke through their membranes from outside and killed them within one to three minutes of activation. 

“We are moving towards realising our ambition to be able to use light-activated nanomachines to target cancer cells such as those in breast tumours and skin melanomas, including those that are resistant to existing chemotherapy.” said Dr Pal a Royal Society Research Fellow.

“Once developed, this approach could provide a potential step change in non-invasive cancer treatment and greatly improve survival rates and patient welfare globally.”

Dr Pal collaborated with research teams in the USA led by Professor James Tour at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and Assistant Professor Gufeng Wang at North Carolina State University. Details of the study are published in the academic journal, Nature.

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