Zero Order

New Year’s and Nanoparticles

Posted in Uncategorized by Amy Ross on January 2, 2012

Happy New Year everyone! I rang in the New Year with a performance of A Klingon Christmas Carol at the Greenhouse Theater in Chicago. It was a lot of fun, although I’ve never sang “Auld Lang Syne” in Klingon before.

The New Year is off to a busy start. I’ll be leaving tomorrow to travel for an interview. In the meantime, here’s an article I ran across recently:

Teenager wins $100,000 prize for designing a controlled drug delivery system. Angela Zhang’s  nanoparticles have components of gold and iron oxide and are designed to specifically target cancer stem cells. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find able to find more information about the specifics, but I can talk about some general concepts regarding the design of her system

A  number of research groups have worked with gold nanoparticles (GNPs). GNPs are inert in humans, nontoxic, and are easily chemically modifiable, allowing for the attachment of drugs or targeting molecules. Drug release from GNPs can be activated by light.  Both gold nanoparticles and iron oxide nanoparticles can be used for imaging. The nanoparticles are injected intravenously and can be visualized through medical imaging. In the case of iron oxide nanoparticles, MRI is highly effective. Imaging can be used in conjunction with drug delivery by locating the area with imaging, and then activating the nanoparticles  by heat, light, or ultrasound. In the case of Zhang’s drug delivery system, the nanoparticles are activated by a laser. This localizes the drug’s effects on the affected area, and prevents adverse drug effects elsewhere in the body.

Finally, a word or two about cancer stem cells, the target of Zhang’s nanoparticles. Cancer stem cells (CSCs)  are malignant cells that have properties of stem cells; namely, CSCs are able to differentiate. They are believed to be capable of differentiating into multiple types of malignant cells accounting for the heterogeneity of cells found in tumors.  There is interest in specifically targeting CSCs to prevent tumors from recurring or metastasizing. The study of cancer stem cells is still young, and we have a lot to learn before we can precisely target the cells for destruction.

Zhang  has been working on this project since 2009, but I wasn’t able to find out  what stage her project is in. Still, it’s fantastic to see a young person with great ideas about controlled drug delivery, and I wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors!


Boisselier and Astruc “Gold nanoparticles in nanomedicine: preparations, imaging, diagnostics, therapies and toxicity.” Chemical Society Reviews 2009 38(6): 1759-82

Ghosh et. al. “Gold nanoparticles in delivery applications“, Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, 2008; 60(11): 1307-1315

Gupta, A.K. and Gupta M.  “Synthesis and surface engineering of iron oxide nanoparticles for biomedical applications”

Biomaterials, 2005, 26 (18): 3995-4021
Madka and Rao “Cancer stem cell markers as potential targets for epithelial cancers” Indian Journal of Experimental Biology,

2011, 49(11):826-35.


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