Molecular ‘robots’ to help fight cancer

Cancer drugs could be boosted by the new technology. Picture: TSPL
Cancer drugs could be boosted by the new technology. Picture: TSPL
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SCIENTISTS have created molecular “robots” that can help develop better drugs for cancer, arthritis and many other diseases.

Many commonly used drugs for the treatment of cancer or autoimmune diseases have nasty side effects resulting from damage to healthy cells that occurs while they kill the disease-causing cells.

A new study, collaboration between the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), New York and Columbia University, shows that it is possible to develop targeted drugs using molecular ‘robots’ that latch on to more specific cells.

The researchers in this experiment designed molecular robots to find and label a particular type of white blood cell in samples of human blood. “The reactions occur fast. In about 15 minutes, we can label cells,” said Maria Rudchenko, M.S., first author of the paper and a research associate at HSS.

If these molecular robots eventually make it to clinical trials on humans, there are a wide range of possible applications, from chemotherapy drugs for cancer patients to drugs for autoimmune diseases that don’t affect the immune cells that are required to fight infections.

“This is a proof of concept study using human cells,” said Dr. Sergei Rudchenko, director of flow cytometry at HSS and a senior author of the study. “The next step is to conduct tests in a mouse model of leukemia.”