Nano-spies go deep, disguised as HIV

Bioengineers at Duke University have figured out a way to sneak molecular spies into a cell’s command center—its nucleus.

The researchers used silver nanoparticles cloaked in a protein from the HIV virus that has an uncanny ability to penetrate human cells. The ultimate goal is to be able to spot the earliest possible moment when the genetic material within a cell begins to turn abnormal, leading to a host of disorders, especially cancer. The finding also shows how drugs or other payloads might be delivered directly into the nucleus.

Full story at Futurity.

In order for nano-spies to be effective, they not only need to get through the cell’s first line of defense—the cell wall—they must be able to enter the nucleus. Once there, they could deliver drugs and report back on changes. (Credit: iStockphoto)

DUKE (US) — Bioengineers have figured out a way to sneak molecular spies into a cell’s command center—its nucleus.

Using silver nanoparticles cloaked in a protein from the HIV virus that has an uncanny ability to penetrate human cells, scientists from Duke University have demonstrated that they can enter the inner workings of the nucleus and detect subtle light signals from the “spy.”

In order for these nano-spies to be effective, they not only need to get through the cell’s first line of defense—the cell wall—they must be able to enter the nucleus.

The ultimate goal is to be able to spot the earliest possible moment when the genetic material within a cell begins to turn abnormal, leading to a host of disorders, especially cancer.

The finding also shows how drugs or other payloads might be delivered directly into the nucleus.

“This new method of getting into and detecting exactly what is going on in the nucleus of cell has distinct advantages over current methods,” says graduate student Molly Gregas.

“The ability to place these nanoparticles into a cell’s nucleus and gather information using light has potential implications for the selective treatment of disease,” Gregas says.  More…

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