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News Archive - Progress Newsletter Summer 2000 Online

Research Roundup:

Scientists to develop "smart bombs" that destroy cancer cells

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University of Michigan scientists will receive $4.4 million from the National Cancer Institute to develop an innovative approach to cancer treatment -- nanomolecular "smart bombs" that sense pre-malignant and cancerous changes inside living cells and then destroy the cells before they can grow into tumors.

"Our goal is to create a multifunctional therapeutic device small enough to work inside living cells," says James R. Baker Jr., M.D., the project's principal investigator who directs the Center for Biologic Nanotechnology in the U-M Medical School. "The device will target to abnormal cells. If it confirms pre-cancerous lesions, it can release a substance to kill the cell and then verify that the cell is dead."

The U-M project is one of five funded by the NCI's new Unconventional Innovations Program, which supports peer-reviewed, high-risk, high-impact research with the potential to revolutionize cancer care.

Synthetic polymers called dendrimers will be used as delivery vehicles to transport anti-cancer drugs and sensing agents into cells, according to Baker. "Dendrimers already are used in many biological applications," he says. "They have been shown to readily enter cells, and they have little toxicity when given intravenously."

Fifteen researchers from the U-M Medical School, the U-M College of Engineering and the U-M College of Literature, Science and the Arts will collaborate on the three-year research project. Working together, these scientists hope to develop new sensing technologies capable of imaging biochemical changes within cells. Researchers in the U-M College of Engineer-ing will concentrate on finding ways to use ultrafast laser or sound wave energy pulses to release anti-cancer drugs stored inside dendrimers.


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