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Researchers seek ‘magic bullet’ using CARC systems

German physician and Nobel laureate Paul Ehrlich proposed the idea of the “magic bullet,” a drug that would selectively target diseased cells without causing any damage to healthy cells. More than 100 years later, cancer nanomedicine brings researchers a step closer to realizing that vision.

Researchers at the University of New Mexico aim to deliver chemotherapy directly to cancerous tissue. They are working to encapsulate toxic chemotherapy in nanoparticles. The challenge is that the body’s immune system interprets nano-drug-carriers as foreign bodies and attacks them, diverting them away from cancerous tissue and over to organs such as the liver and spleen.

Researchers can answer numerous, complex “what-if” magic bullet scenarios through computer simulations. This avoids undertaking an extensive, and expensive, animal study. They hope to test different nanoparticle variables to find which are most suitable for targeting tumors. The variables that can affect behavior can include size, charge, surface chemistry, and shape.

It can be challenging to simulate various pathological conditions and make reliable and valuable predictions. Resources at the Center for Advanced Research Computing allows the researchers to simulate complex biological systems, ranging from cells to the whole body. These simulations hold promise for improving the “magic bullet,” delivering nanocarriers to tumors while minimizing their effects on the healthy organs of the body.

Working on this research are:

  • Prashant Dogra, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Pathology, University of New Mexico
  • Elaine L. Bearer, M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Department of Pathology, University of New Mexico
  • Joshua A. Hanson, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, University of New Mexico
  • Bridget S. Wilson, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Pathology, University of New Mexico
  • C. Jeffrey Brinker, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Chemistry, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of New Mexico
  • Yao-li Chuang, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Scholar, Department of Mathematics, California State University
  • Zhihui Wang, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of NanoMedicine and BioMedical Engineering, The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
  • Vittorio Cristini, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Center for Precision Biomedicine, Institute for Molecular Medicine, McGovern Medical School, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

This study has been partly supported by New Mexico SpatioTemporal Modeling Center (STMC) Graduate Student Fellowship (NIH P50GM085273) and University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center Translational Cancer Biology and Signaling Pilot Grant Award.