There are a ton of impressive applications of nanoparticles in medicine, especially cancer treatment, but MIT's new take on the process is pretty awesome. It uses two kinds of particles to do the job: one to find the tumors, the other to kick their arse.
Nanoparticles have already been used to make delivery of cancer drugs more efficient, but the use of these new scouting particles, which call the delivery particles to the site of the tumour, has increased the amount of medicine that reaches the tumours by a factor of 40 in trials.
The scouting cells (gold nanorods) work by entering the pores of tumors and heating up enough to cause a blood clotting reaction. Then the delivery particles attach themselves to an enzyme called Factor XIII, which is attracted to the site of the tumour during the clotting process.
Right now the process is still in its early phases. The research team admits that it needs to be simplified, especially because cancer patients are so prone to clotting all over their bodies, and the delivery particles will need a way to lock onto only the tumour clots. But still, even with all the challenges ahead, the idea that we're close to a cancer treatment that's 40 times more efficient than what we have now is a pretty wonderful proposition. [Nature]