Researchers at Rice University have developed a groundbreaking new cancer treatment technique using light-activated nanomachines that act as “molecular jackhammers” to destroy cancer cells.
How the Nanomachine Cancer Treatment Works
The nanomachines designed by the Rice University scientists consist of nanoparticles made of gold and iron oxide that can be injected directly into a tumor (Rice University unveils groundbreaking cancer treatment using light-activated nanomachines). These nanoparticles vibrate at ultrafast speeds when activated by laser light, essentially acting as miniscule jackhammers.
When exposed to laser light, the gold nanoparticles heat up, causing the iron oxide nanoparticles connected to them to vibrate back and forth at speeds of more than 30 million times per second. This ultrafast vibration literally shakes apart cancer cells, destroying up to 99% of melanoma skin cancer cells and breast cancer cells in lab tests (Molecular jackhammers destroy 99% of cancer cells).
|Type of Cancer Cells
|Melanoma skin cancer
The nanomachines leave healthy cells untouched, representing a major improvement over traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, which damage healthy cells along with cancerous ones.
Lead Up to the Breakthrough Discovery
The Rice scientists have been working on developing the light-activated nanomachine cancer treatment for over 5 years. In 2018, they first published a study showing they could use gold nanoparticles heated by lasers to destroy ovarian cancer cells (Novel way to destroy cancer cells).
They spent the next few years working to improve the design and effectiveness of the therapy. A major breakthrough came in late 2023 when they added the iron oxide nanoparticles and fine-tuned the vibration frequency to maximize cancer cell destruction. Extensive lab testing in 2023 validated the extremely high effectiveness of the updated approach.
Now in 2024, the Rice team is preparing to start clinical trials of the light-activated nanomachine treatment in cancer patients. Thanks to the years of refinement, they expect these trials to demonstrate similar cancer-destroying capability as seen in the lab.
Outlook for the Future
The Rice scientists plan to begin human clinical trials later this year. They will first focus on skin cancer patients due its accessibility for direct injection and activating laser light. Their recent advancements to enhance treatment depth could also enable the therapy to target small tumors located deep within the body.
Researchers see this light-activated nanomachine approach as a platform that can be extended to treat a wide variety of cancers. By tweaking the vibration frequency, they believe they can optimize destruction of cancerous cells while protecting healthy tissues. Ongoing work also seeks to incorporate chemotherapy drugs inside the nanomachines for targeted delivery.
The Rice team started a company in 2023 called Pulsonic Technologies to continue improving and commercializing their cancer treatment method. They aim make the approach inexpensive and easy to administer so it can help patients worldwide.
If the human trials and additional research progress as hoped, light-activated nanomachines could become a revolutionary new standard of care for cancer in the late 2020s. The selectivity and effectiveness of literally shaking cancer cells to death would represent a major milestone in the fight against this terrible disease.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.