Medical researchers are increasingly focusing on the use of nanoparticles to deliver drugs to the precise part of the body where they are needed, say, the site of a tumor. In this way, cancers can be destroyed with the precision of a smart weapon, leaving surrounding tissue undamaged, unlike the case with conventional chemotherapy.
The problem arises over how to extract the nanoparticles once they have done their work. Up until now, the solutions to this difficulty have tended to be unsatisfactory because too many steps were needed, and the process could alter or damage the nanoparticles. However, some new technology developed by the University of California at San Diego and built by a biotechnology firm called Biological Dynamics has addressed this problem.
The device that can be used to extract the nanoparticles consists of a dielectrophoresis collection chip the size of a dime. The chip contains hundreds of tiny electrodes that generate a rapidly oscillating electric field.
The chip would cause the positive and negative charges of the nanoparticles to reorient in a different direction from the blood plasma particles. The nanoparticles are then pulled out by the electrodes and thus are separated from the blood plasma. The process takes about seven minutes.
The chip already has applications for researchers, who can use it to study and prototype drugs rapidly that can be delivered by nanoparticles. When the first nanoparticle-delivered drugs enter a clinical setting, health care providers can use the chip to quickly and simply extract the nanoparticles once they have delivered the drugs.
As a bonus, the chip is also said to have a number of environmental and industrial applications.
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