Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have developed a new way to deliver drugs into cancer cells by exposing them briefly to a non-harmful laser. Their results are published in a recent article in ACS NANO, a journal of the American Chemical Society.
"This entirely novel tool will allow biologists to investigate how genes function by providing them with temporal and spatial control over when a gene is turned on or off," explained Norbert Reich, senior author and a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCSB. "In a nutshell, what we describe is the ability to control genes in cells –– and we are working on doing this in animals –– simply by briefly exposing them to a non-harmful laser."
The scientists used cancer cells from mice, and grew them in culture. They then introduced gold nanoshells, with a peptide-lipid coating, that encapsulated "silencing ribonucleic acid" (siRNA), which was the drug that was taken up by the cells. Next, they exposed the cells to a non-harmful infrared laser.