Researchers at The Ohio State University have found a way to light up a common cancer drug so they can see where the chemo goes and how long it takes to get there.
They've devised an organic technique for creating this scientific guiding star and in doing so have opened up a new frontier in their field. Previous efforts have been limited by dyes that faded quickly and by toxic elements, particularly metals.
A study published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology highlighted two novel accomplishments. First, the researchers created a luminescent molecule, called a peptide and made up of two amino acids. Then they hitched that light to the cancer medication so that it revealed the chemo's arrival within cells.
Biomedical engineers strive to find techniques that behave naturally within the body and leave without doing harm. This research holds promise for doing just that because the peptide is one that should easily coexist with human cells and leave as harmlessly as it entered.
In the body or tissue of an animal or person, scientists would watch the fluorescent signal with an optical detection system.
Researchers sandwiched their peptide to a common chemotherapy drug so that its light was hidden until the two elements peeled apart upon entering the cells.
The research team used doxorubicin, a widely used chemotherapy drug, for their lab work, but the discovery could apply to different types of treatments.
Researchers were delighted to see that the blue peptide, which can be seen under ultraviolet light, maintained its luminescence for extended periods of time. Previous work to track drugs using organic dyes has been hampered by their tendency to fade with time.