Researchers have developed self-assembling nanoparticles that transport drugs to living cells.

Photo Credit: Francisco Raymo

Photo Credit: Francisco Raymo

Researchers from the University of Miami teamed up with the University of Ulster to develop self-assembling nanoparticles that can transport drugs and other molecules to living cells. 

 The particles are just 15 nanometers in diameter and have hydrophilic and lipophilic properties. This allows the nanocarriers to hold molecules in their interior and travel through the human body with their water-soluble exterior. According to KurzweilAI, this makes them ideal for transporting molecules that are otherwise insoluble in water. These carriers also emit a fluorescent signal that allows scientists to observe and track them with a microscope.

“The size of these nanoparticles, their dynamic character and the fact that the reactions take place under normal biological conditions (at ambient temperature and neutral environment) makes these nanoparticles an ideal vehicle for the controlled activation of therapeutics, directly inside the cells,” said Francisco Raymo, lead investigator of the study and professor of chemistry at the University of Miami. 

Researchers will next investigate how these nanocarriers can be used to spark chemical reactions inside cells, instead of using energy transfers.

Raymo says this strategy is unique because it involves “sequential transport of interacting species inside cells. However, we are still very far from any commercial application at this stage.”

Learn more about the research in the video below.