X-ray triggered nano-bubbles to target cancer

13 July 2018:

Innovative drug filled nano-bubbles, able to be successfully triggered in the body by X-rays, have been developed by CNBP and Macquarie University researchers, paving the way for a new range of cancer treatments for patients.

The tiny bubbles, known as liposomes, are commonly used in pharmacology to encapsulate drugs, making them more effective in the treatment of disease. Researchers have now been able to engineer these liposomes to discharge their drug cargo on-demand, once activated by standard X-rays. Initial testing has shown this technique to be highly efficient in killing bowel cancer cells.

“The development and application of various nanomaterial designs for drug delivery is currently a key focus area in nanomedicine,” says lead author of the research Dr Wei Deng (pictured), Associate Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) and scientist at Macquarie University when the research was undertaken.

“Liposomes are already well established as an extremely effective drug-delivery system. Made out of similar material as cell membranes, these ‘bubbles’ are relatively simple to prepare, can be filled with appropriate medications and then injected into specific parts of the body. The issue however, is in controlling the timely release of the drug from the liposome,” she says.

“We have ensured that the liposomes release their drug pay-load at exactly the right time and in exactly the right place to ensure the most effective treatment. One way of doing this is to trigger the collapse of the liposome when and where it is needed. Our X-ray triggerable liposomes allow this on-demand drug-release to occur,” says Dr Wei Deng.

“The approach we took was to embed gold nanoparticles and the photo-sensitive molecule verteporfin into the wall of the liposome.”

“The radiation from the X-ray causes the verteporfin to react and to produce highly reactive singlet oxygen which then destabilises the liposomal membrane, causing the release of the drug,” says Dr Wei Deng.

“The gold nanoparticles are added into the mix as they focus the X-ray energy. This enhances the singlet oxygen generation and hence improves the speed of the membrane breakup”, she says.

Read the full media release here.

Journal: Nature Communications.

Publication title: Controlled gene and drug release from a liposomal delivery platform triggered by X-ray radiation.

Authors: Wei Deng, Wenjie Chen, Sandhya Clement, Anna Guller, Zhenjun Zhao, Alexander Engel & Ewa M. Goldys.

Below – Dr Wei Deng.