Transformable liquid metal 'nano-terminators' seek and destroy cancer cells - No signs of toxicity

12/02/2015 - 16:39

Researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have developed a new drug delivery technique that uses a biodegradable liquid metal to target cancer cells. The liquid metal drug delivery method promises to boost the effect of cancer drugs.

"The advance here is that we have a drug-delivery technique that may enhance the effectiveness of the drugs being delivered, can help doctors locate tumors, can be produced in bulk, and appears to be wholly biodegradable with very low toxicity," says Zhen Gu, corresponding author of a Nature Communications paper on the work and an assistant professor in the joint biomedical engineering program at NC State and UNC-CH.


Ref: Transformable liquid-metal nanomedicine. Nature Communications (2 December 2015) | DOI:10.1038/ncomms10066


To date, numerous inorganic nanocarriers have been explored for drug delivery systems (DDSs). However, the clinical application of inorganic formulations has often been hindered by their toxicity and failure to biodegrade. We describe here a transformable liquid-metal nanomedicine, based on a core–shell nanosphere composed of a liquid-phase eutectic gallium-indium core and a thiolated polymeric shell. This formulation can be simply produced through a sonication-mediated method with bioconjugation flexibility. The resulting nanoparticles loaded with doxorubicin (Dox) have an average diameter of 107 nm and demonstrate the capability to fuse and subsequently degrade under a mildly acidic condition, which facilitates release of Dox in acidic endosomes after cellular internalization. Equipped with hyaluronic acid, a tumour-targeting ligand, this formulation displays enhanced chemotherapeutic inhibition towards the xenograft tumour-bearing mice. This liquid metal-based DDS with fusible and degradable behaviour under physiological conditions provides a new strategy for engineering theranostic agents with low toxicity.