Nanoparticles with 'Heart of Gold' Starve Cancer Cells to Death

Researchers have found a way to kill cancerous lymphoma cells using a kind of nanoparticle that has a gold particle at its core, says a new study.

The nanoparticle designed by the researchers has the perfect appearance; it looks like HDL or high-density lipoprotein- from which the cancer cell derives its fat content. However, when the particle attaches itself to the cancer cells, it blocks the cholesterol from entering the cell and actually removes all the fat from the cell, thus letting the cancer cell starve to death.

"This has the potential to eventually become a nontoxic treatment for B-cell lymphoma which does not involve chemotherapy. It's an exciting preliminary finding," said Leo I. Gordon, M.D., a co-author of the study, according to a press release.

The nanoparticle was originally designed by Shad Thaxton, M.D. from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine to help treat heart disease. The particle resembles HDL in all aspects like shape, size and surface chemistry. However, at its core, the new particle has gold which absorbs the fat from the cell and then plugs the cell in such a way that it can derive fat from the surrounding.

Researchers say that the study has open a new way in defeating cancer cells, which is not inhibiting growth or killing the cells, but essentially letting the cancer cells starve themselves to death.

"At first I was heavily focused on developing nanoparticles that could remove cholesterol from cells, especially those involved in heart disease. The lymphoma work has broadened this focus to how the HDL nanoparticles impact both the removal and uptake of cholesterol by cells. We discovered the particles are multi-taskers," Thaxton said.

Thaxton also said that gold particles aren't toxic to other human cells. Also, gold particles can be made into different sizes and shapes and so it is a good candidate for providing a skeletal structure for a nanoparticle.

The study was conducted by researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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