Researchers develop magnetic molecular machines to deliver drugs to unhealthy cells

Scientists from UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute and Korea's Yonsei University have developed an innovative method that enables nanomachines to release drugs inside living cancer cells when activated remotely by an oscillating magnetic field.

The new system - the first to utilise a class of porous nanomaterials driven by a magnetic core - has the potential to improve both targeted drug-delivery and magnetic resonance imaging in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

The research appears in the July issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

In recent years, cancer research has increasingly focused on developing therapies that, unlike chemotherapy, target only cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. To that end, scientists have created nanomachines that can trap and release drug molecules from pores directly into individual cancer cells in response to a stimulus.

While many methods have been created for controlling how and when pores load and unload their cargos, for therapeutic applications, an external and noninvasive method of activation is preferable for the most effective results.

The new method, developed by the research groups of Jeffrey Zink, a UCLA professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Jinwoo Cheon, a professor of chemistry at Korea's Yonsei University, uses a material that combines a framework of mesoporous silica nanoparticles with magnetic zinc-doped iron oxide nanocrystals, along with attached nanovalves that help hold drug molecules in the pores.