Carbon nanotubes have a potentially wide variety of applications due to their strength, flexibility, and other promising properties. While many researchers have been focused on applying carbon nanotubes in nanotechnology and electronics, ECS members Kris Dahl and Mohammad Islam are looking to give the nanotubes a new use in medical applications.
Dahl, a chemical and biomedical engineer; and Islam, a materials scientists; are taking their respective skills and putting them to use in the novel interdisciplinary development, making possible carbon nanotubed-based structures for drug delivery.
This from Carnegie Mellon University:
Picture feeding a dog a pill. In order to do so, one would wrap it in cheese to mask the medicine and make it more appealing. In a similar vein, to enhance drug delivery, Dahl and Islam have engineered proteins that wrap around the drug-coated carbon nanotubes. The cells, which love these proteins, more readily take up the drug—much as a dog would more readily eat the cheese-coated pill.
“The great thing about using carbon nanotubes to deliver drugs is that, scientifically, they’re just carbon,” Dahl says. “They’re similar to graphite in pencils, diamond, or char—they’re just organized in a different way. But because they’re latticed in this certain way, cells don’t break them down. Another advantage of this drug delivery method is the fact that these nanotubes are nearly completely inert to the cell. You can get tens of millions of them inside the cell before there’s any real impact on the cell, and that means you can deliver a huge amount of a drug and it doesn’t really disrupt the cells.”
“Now that we understand how to disperse carbon nanotubes, how to control the toxicity, how to deliver them to the cells, how to detect them or identify where they are in the cell—now we are in a place where we can begin to target specific cells,” Islam says. “Because carbon nanotubes have such a high surface area and they go into the cell by the millions, you can have a very high efficiency of delivery to a specific cell.”