Tiny Tech #25: Photothermal Therapy – Can You Take the Heat?

Today from the world of Tiny Tech:

If the cells in your body get hot, they get a little uncomfortable and don’t work as well. Unlike us, they can’t just drink some ice-cold lemonade to cool off. Your cells can only live near body temperature, and if things get too hot, they die. This is true for normal cells, and also for cancer cells.

Scientists are investigating a new cancer treatment based on nanotechnology, called photothermal therapy. It takes advantage of the fact that tiny gold nanoparticles are great at turning light into heat. By designing the gold nanoparticles to stick to cancer cells but to ignore normal cells, it may be possible to treat cancer patients by giving them a dose of nanoparticles, and then using light to heat up the nanoparticles and kill the cancer.

Gold nanoparticles are attractive for photothermal therapy because they are non-toxic, and their surfaces can easily be modified to stick to cancer cells. So far, photothermal therapy has been shown to kill cancer cells in live mice, and clinical trials in human patients have begun. If successful, then photothermal therapy could become one of the “hottest” topics in cancer research.

Tiny Tech is made possible by the National Science Foundation and WUFT.  To learn more about Tiny Tech, go to tinytechradio.org.

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