Liquid Metal ‘Nano-Terminator’ to Target Cancer Cells


Scientists from North Carolina state university and the UNC School of medicine have developed a new drug delivery technique into cancer cells using liquid metal.

Zhen Gu, a biochemical engineer in a joint program at North Carolina’s state university and university at Chapel Hill said, “the advance here is that we have a drug delivery technique that may upgrade the effectiveness of the drugs being delivered, can help doctors to locate tumours, can be produced in bulk, and appears to be wholly biodegradable with very low toxicity. And one of the advantages of this technique is that these liquid metal drug carriers or ‘Nano- terminators’ are easy to make.”

To develop the Nano-terminators researchers keep liquid metal (a gallium-indium alloy) into a solution with molecules called polymeric ligands. Then by using ultrasound, the researchers reduced the metal into tiny 100 nanometres droplets. The ligands attach to the surface of the droplets and form a skin that prevents that alloy from fusing back together t-100 style.

The drug Doxorubicin was mixed into the solution after common chemotherapy, the ligands on the tiny droplets attached to it. After an introduction with bloodstream, an additional type of ligand that attaches to the Nanodroplets, searched for the cancer cells by allowing those cells to absorb Nano-droplets, releasing the drug into the cell. As the Nanodroplets start fusing together, they grew in size, creates larger liquid metal droplets that could be easily detected by scans, helping doctors to locate tumours.

The researchers did 3 months test with the nanoparticles on mice for ovarian cancer. This test showed that the nanoparticles are much effective. That’s the reason they nicknamed them to “Nano terminators.” It doesn’t effect on non-cancerous cells means there are no chances of harm/damage to the healthy cell. The research is to be published in Nature Communications, the study that describes how do nanoparticles work. The team intends to continue their research with the larger animal study, before moving on to clinical trial with human hopefully. Gu said, “this was a proof-of-concept but very encouraging. Like the fictional terminator, this carrier is transformable, smashed from bulk material, fused inside cancer cells and eventually degraded and cleared.”


See stories of the future in your inbox each morning.