Cancer and Nanoshells

Nanoshells are hollow silica spheres covered with gold. Scientists can attach antibodies to their surfaces, enabling the shells to target certain cells, such as cancer cells. In mouse tests, Professor Naomi Halas's research team at Rice University directed infrared radiation through tissue and onto the shells, causing the gold to superheat and destroy tumor cells while leaving healthy ones intact. Technicians can control the amount of heat with the thickness of the gold and the kind of laser. Nanoshells could one day also be filled with drug-containing polymers. Heating them would cause the polymers to release a controlled amount of the drug. Human trials using gold nanoshells are slated to begin in a couple of years.

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