Demand for nanotechnology health care products is projected to exceed $100 billion. In this regard, a tremendous value of nanotechnology in treatment of cancer is development of the ability to dramatically reduce or eliminate side effects by precisely administering treatments to only diseased cells.
As such there exists an exponentially growing demand for development of benign nanomaterials for cancer diagnosis and therapy. These nanomaterials must demonstrate superior performance, be flexible and smarter in targeting diseased cells, be more robust in destroying ill cells and pose no threat to the healthy cells. All these characteristics require an effective surface functionalization of nanomaterials and production on a large scale, capabilities that have shown to be challenging to overcome in the R&D and product development arenas.
One of the obstacles in optical-based therapeutics and diagnoses is that the light in the visible region has a very short penetration depth in biological tissues. Therefore, visible light cannot serve this purpose efficiently. However, there is a near-IR transparency window from 650 to 900 nm where light penetration depth in the tissue can be up to several centimeters.
Why gold nanorods?
Gold nanorods due to the Enhanced Permeability and Retention (EPR) effect tend to accumulate in tumor tissues much more than they do in normal tissues. Therefore, as heat generators, they concentrate the heat around cancer cells, when irradiated with visible or near-infrared light. This brings the opportunity of precise and targeted tumor annihilation. Furthermore, nanorods because of their shape and size offer adjustable light absorption and scattering in the near-IR region of the spectrum where biological tissues demonstrate light transparency. This makes them very unique and attractive as therapeutic heating devices and contrast agents for diagnosis and imaging.
However, gold nanorods must be coated properly to stay in a “stealth mode” when in body. This demands a robust surface coating. In this regard, there are still major technical barriers in manufacturing functionalized-gold nanorods with quality and quantity that can be responsive to the development of treatments and biotechnology market. At the heart of these challenges resides the inability to go beyond small scale production and realization of scalable coating methods.
Building on several years of experience in growth and fabrication of nanocrystals, we have developed patented platforms for scalable production of gold nanorods and their specific surface functionalities to enable their safe use in body environment and avoid triggering its immune system. We bind surface ligands such as polyethylene glycol to gold nanorods using mechanisms that nearly eliminate the possibility of their departure. This gives them the necessary stability to survive extreme conditions that they may experience during their duty cycles in body.
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