Researchers Successfully Develop Tumour-Targeting Nanoparticles with the Aid of Malvern Zetasizer Nano

The Zetasizer Nano particle characterization system from Malvern Instruments (Malvern, UK) is proving to be an ideal research tool for advanced healthcare applications such as gene therapy and selective-target carrier molecules. University of Washington researchers say that accurate zeta potential and particle size measurements were critical to their successful development of fluorescent, tumour-targeting iron oxide nanoparticles.

Able to safely cross the blood-brain barrier and selectively illuminate brain cancer cells during a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, the innovative molecules resulting from this research are set to make brain cancer imaging much safer.

"Safe molecular penetration of the blood-brain barrier depends on a particle's size, fat content and electric charge. It wasn't until we obtained the Zetasizer Nano in 2006 that we were able to efficiently measure, monitor and optimise these properties and develop nanoparticles that deliver the desired half-life in blood but remain stable long enough to support imaging," explained Professor Miqin Zhang from the University of Washington's Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

The blood-brain barrier protects the brain from infection. Current imaging techniques require the injection of both dyes and a drug to forcefully open the barrier. Professor Zhang and her team have formulated particles approximately 33 nanometres in diameter. Three times smaller in wet conditions than anything previously formulated in the lab, these particles can naturally penetrate the blood-brain barrier without exposing the patient to the risk of infection, and represent a highly significant advance in brain cancer imaging.

The Nanoparticle Lab within the University of Washington's Department of Materials Science and Engineering focuses its research on cancer diagnosis and treatment through imaging enhancement and targeted and controlled therapeutic payload delivery. This is accomplished by use of nanoconjugates or multifunctional nanovectors. A nanoconjugate is a chemically modified nanoparticle serving as a "vehicle" that carries biomolecules to target cells. The term "nanovector" here refers to a nanosized entity that plays a functional role in the perspective of therapeutics.

The Zetasizer Nano which plays an integral part in the research work is one of a series of instruments from Malvern Instruments that delivers particle size and zeta potential monitoring capabilities at the nanometre scale. Widely used for characterizing a broad range of nanosized materials from high concentration colloids through to dilute protein solutions, the Zetasizer range supports the current trends in frontline scientific research.

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