Three prostate cancer cells have taken up fluorescently labeled nanoparticles (shown in red). The cells' nuclei and cytoskeletons are stained blue and green, respectively.
Similarly designed targeted nanoparticles containing a chemotherapeutic drug are capable of getting inside cancer cells and releasing a lethal dose of the drug and eradicating tumors.
It's funny how so many things that have been used by the writers of Star Trek had come to be common place....the communicator (cell phone), Tricorders ( Palm pilots/Blackberrys) and the ever present computer. Now we are seeing another one....nanotechnology. These are small(microscopic) particles and appliances that can be injected into a patient to treat a specific disease. I read a great site, Technology Review from MIT that is definately on the cutting edge and has a report on Nano's being used in the treatment of Prostate cancer. "To make the nanoparticles, the researchers mix together a prostate cancer drug (docetaxel) and polymers that are already FDA-approved (one of them is used for sutures). The polymer formed spheres with the drugs trapped within. The researchers then chemically attach pieces of RNA, called aptamers, to the surface of the spheres. The RNA folds into shapes that fit into complementary structures on the surface of prostate-cancer cells." The promising thing about this form of treatment is that it has the potential for a single treatment with minimal side effects. Since the drug is taken into the cell it releases it's effect only on that cell , also using specific RNA allows it to be targeted for only one type of cancer cell. This is great news for those that suffer from prostate cancer ( my father being among this group) as well as many others who could benefit from it's potential. This is something that is coming and will have major impacts on the future in more than just medicine.
It's worth watching.