The new frontline in the fight against diseases is at the nanoscale – a size comparable to a cluster of atoms – where smart nanoparticles loaded with drugs track and burrow deep inside their target before releasing therapeutic agents just where they're needed. Half the challenge is designing nanoparticles that bind to and attack only specific sites or cells, like this bone cancer cell (with DNA coloured blue, cellular skeleton in purple and energy-making centres in yellow). In a showcase experiment, researchers coated polymer nanoparticles laden with an anti-cancer agent using alendronate, a chemical taken up rapidly by bone cells, before injecting it into mice with bone cancer. And sure enough, the treatment slowed the spread of the cancer and prolonged the mice's lives. Although more research is needed to ensure the treatment's safety, smart nanoparticles stand to revolutionise medicine by one day consigning coarse treatments like chemotherapy to history.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.