Nanobees Sting Tumors With Melittin

Nanobees are nanoparticles laden with melittin, an ingredient in bee venom. Melittin is known to have therapeutic uses, but its use in medicine has been minimal due to the fact that it does damage to healthy cells as well. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis came up with the nanobee idea as a way to get melittin directly to tumor cells.


(Nanobees with melittin sting cancer cells)

Among Dr. Soman's first experiments was to see how melittin interacted with the nanoparticles. He found that not only did it attach quickly to the outer, lipid layer of the nanoparticles, but that the attachment was stable, suggesting that the nanoparticle-melittin combination, or nanobee, might be able to circulate in the body and not attack healthy cells.

The next issue was to figure out how to get the melittin, once it came upon a tumor, to detach from the nanoparticle and transfer to the cancer cells, taking its cell-killing properties with it. The researchers accomplished this by attaching a third component to the mix—a ligand, which is a chemical that binds two distinct compounds. The ligand they used in this case—which Dr. Schlesinger likens to a "molecular ZIP Code"—has an affinity for attaching to a receptor plentiful in newly formed blood vessels. That's useful in cancer treatment because tumors tend to form new blood vessels to feed themselves and grow.

In tests with mice, the nanobees slowed the growth of breast-cancer tumors significantly, shrank melanoma tumors and reduced precancerous lesions (compared with control groups).

These "nanobees" are yet another effort to find a way to deliver a measured quantity of agent to a very particular place in the body. When science fiction writers think about it, one way to solve this problem is to make a person very small. As in the sf classic Fantastic Voyage.


(Proteus from Fantastic Voyage)

From WSJ via MedGadget.

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