Nanoparticles could potentially be used to deliver drugs, genes, and biosensors into target cells. But how can these tiny cargo carriers be made to slip easily into cell membranes without damaging them? Now, scientists have found that tailor-made gold nanoparticles can do it in much the same way as vesicles, tiny floating pouches that naturally fuse with cell membranes to deliver neurotransmitters or hormones. The trick is to coat synthetic particles with a particular mix of molecules that cling to certain parts of the membrane, allowing the tiny spheres to be absorbed without causing any disruption. Pictured is a computer-generated simulation of one of these particles (top) fusing with a layer of cell membrane (bottom). Experiments in the Petri dish confirmed the model’s predictions. In the end, cells where vesicle-style fusion occurs naturally, such as nerve cells in the brain, might be the best targets for these membrane-crossing drug parcels.
Written by Daniel Cossins
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