Nanoscopic Probes Could Eliminate Cancer Cells

Author: Brian Wallheimer
Joseph Irudayaraj, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, has developed probes that can help pinpoint the location of tumors and may directly attack cancer cells. The nanoscale, multifunctional probes have antibodies that search out and attach to cancer cells.

“If we have a tumor, these probes should have the ability to latch on to it,” Irudayaraj says. “The probe could carry drugs to target, treat, as well as reveal cancer cells.” Scientists have already developed probes that use gold nanorods or magnetic particles, but Irudayaraj’s nanoprobes use both, making their movement easier to track with different imaging devices.

The magnetic particles can be traced through the use of an MRI, while the gold nanorods are luminescent and can be traced through microscopy, a more sensitive and precise process. Irudayaraj says an MRI is less precise than optical luminescence, but has the advantage of being able to track the probes deeper in tissue, expanding the possible applications.

The probes, which are about 1,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, contain the antibody Herceptin, used in treatment of metastatic breast cancer. They would be injected into the body through a saline buffering fluid and attach to protein markers on the surface of cancer cells. Irudayaraj says better tracking of the nanoprobes could pinpoint the location of known tumors and better treat the cancer. The research was funded through a National Institutes of Health grant and the Purdue Research Foundation.