IIT Guwahati researchers utilized nature-derived silk-carbon nanotube composites to deliver cancer drugs directly to cancer cells. This drug can now be given to humans in a controlled and specific manner. Such biocompatible vehicles could potentially carry chemotherapy drugs directly to the cancer cells. In chemotherapy, nanoparticles loaded with drugs can now be targeted at the tumour cells, bypassing healthy cells, thus keeping away from non-specific biodistribution, drug resistance and unwanted adverse effects.
Who came up with this research?
A research team led by Dr Biman B Mandal, Associate Professor, Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering, IIT Guwahati, along with Dr Jadi Praveen Kumar, Dr Rocktotpal Konwarh, Dr Manishekhar Kumar, and Ankit Gangrade have studied various types of nanomaterials for use as carriers in targeted drug delivery.
Concept of targeted drugs
Targeted therapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs. Targeted therapy works by targeting the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. Dr. Biman B Mandal stated,” Although conventional chemotherapy is one of the most widely used treatment methods for cancer, its drawbacks include poor bioavailability at the actual cancerous regions, which necessitates high-dose injections, and serious side effects that arise because the drugs destroy healthy cells along with the cancer cells in the body. Both these problems can be solved by delivering drugs exclusively to the target cancerous zones, and our silk-nanotube and nanodot-based vehicles would serve as good carriers of such drugs.”
“Developments in targeted drug delivery have been driven by developments in nanomaterials,” said Mandal, who leads the team of researchers.
Nanomaterials are chemical substances or materials that are manufactured and used at a very small scale. It is defined as a material with any external dimension in the nanoscale (size range from approximately 1 – 100 nm) or having internal structure or surface structure in the nanoscale’. While early developments on targeted drugs dealt with treating infections, the past two decades have seen a surge in the development of targeted drugs for cancer and other tumors. The concept of targeted drugs is not new, as German Nobel laureate Paul Ehrlich proposed, in the early 1900s, the concept of ‘Magische Kugel,’ or magic bullet – a drug that can target the disease like a missile fired towards a target.
How is it done?
IIT Guwahati research team prepared nature-derived silk nanotubes to deliver cancer drugs. These carbon nanotubes are particularly attractive for targeted drug delivery. Hydrogels are polymeric networks that absorb huge volumes of water and swell. The high water content makes hydrogels similar to tissues, enhancing biocompatibility, and also allows easy encapsulation and release of drugs at targeted sites.
The IIT Guwahati research team has developed a hydrogel system made of silk and carbon nanotubes loaded with drug molecules for controlled release of drugs.
The team of researchers combined silk with drug-loaded carbon nanotubes, which offered better mechanical strength to the silk hydrogels, in addition to enabling slow and controlled release of the drug at the target site.
Mandal claimed that, their injectable hybrid hydrogel system had pH, temperature, and near-infrared (NIR) light-dependent drug release properties.
Dr. Mandal and his research team used bio-derived carbon nanodots as vehicles for drug delivery in an earlier study. It is attractive to produce such nanodots from biological sources to avoid the use of toxic products, and there have been attempts to produce carbon nanodots from bread, jaggery, banana, and even milk.
These attempts of research team produced carbon nanodots from lassi, the popular yogurt-based drink. The researchers heated store-bought lassi ina microwave oven for few minutes and separated the carbonized portion that contained carbon nanodots.
The researchers then loaded the nanodots with a model drug compound called doxorubicin (Dox). The Dox-loaded carbon nanoparticles released the drug in response to the change in acid content in the surrounding medium. What’s more, the drug was delivered into the target cell directly. The results from this work were published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering last year.
Recognition for the team
The team was happy to apply for the patent for the technology. Their work and the results of their research were published recently in ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering. Ankit Gangrade has co-authored this paper with Dr Mandal.