'Nanotubes' May Deliver Drugs to Targeted Cells

New technology could improve wide range of therapies

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FRIDAY, Sept. 30, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- In another step toward better, more highly targeted drug delivery, French and Italian scientists say they have successfully used carbon nanotubes to inject antifungal agents into cells.

They've also developed a method of attaching a second agent or marker to the nanotubes in a controlled fashion, according to findings published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Nanotubes are long, narrow tubes made of multiple layers of carbon atoms arranged in graphite-like sheets.

"They can drill through cell membranes like tiny needles without damaging the cell," researcher Alberto Bianco of the Institut de Biologie Moleculaire et Cellulaire, in Strasbourg, France, said in a prepared statement.

If proteins or nucleic acids are attached to the nanotubes, they can also go right through the cell membrane. Bianco and his colleagues wanted to determine whether nanotubes could also carry small pharmaceutical molecules such as antibiotics or cancer drugs directly into cells.

They also wanted to find out if it was possible to attach two agents to nanotubes. This would make it possible to use nanotubes to carry out combination therapies or to trace the uptake of a drug by adding a marker.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about nanodevices.

SOURCE: Angewandte Chemie International Edition, news release, September, 2005

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