Nanoghosts Marcelle Machluf
Electron microscopy image of nanoghosts loaded with nucleic acids

Nano  HEALERS

Imagine we could access a cancer treatment in which the cells of the tumor are directly targeted with gene therapy, eradicating the tumor at its root and vastly increasingly life expectancy. Technion research into the nanomedicine of tomorrow is promising just this.

A new technology for the delivery of targeted anticancer therapeutics in the body has been developed in the laboratory of Prof. Marcelle Machluf of the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering.

This technology dramatically increases the therapy’s efficacy and prevents the side effects associated with existing chemotherapy. In animal model experiments, the system doubled life expectancy after the development of prostate cancer.

Two problems in cancer treatments are the health-eroding side effects of chemotherapy, and the ability of cancer cells to develop resistance to these drugs. In response to this, gene therapy has proven effective in treating tumors and metastases. This involves the insertion of genes, such as nucleic acid sequences that are coded for the production of proteins.
However, despite the potential of gene therapy for cancer, the widespread method in gene therapy – inserting genes into target cells using viruses – can incite a harsh immune response.
An article published in February in the journal Nano Letters heralds a breakthrough in the accurate delivery of genes to the target without the use of viruses. The new technology, developed in Prof. Marcelle Machluf’s laboratory, is an innovative delivery platform termed nanoghost.

The nanoghosts are tiny particles made from the outer membrane of mesenchymal stem cells. These cells are able to selectively target various cancers.
With the technology, developed by Prof. Machluf together with doctoral student Limor Kaneti, these cells may be produced in large quantities in the laboratory, emptied of their contents and turned into empty packages – nanoghosts. Specific genes are inserted into these packages and begin to produce an anti-cancer protein only upon reaching the tumor. Therefore, they do not harm healthy tissue on their way to the target. Moreover, the anticancer protein impacts not only the targetcells, but also adjacent cancer cells and the blood vessels that support the tumor.

After the genetic material is loaded, the nanoghosts are injected directly into the bloodstream, through which they navigate to the tumor. Since outwardly, these are mesenchymal stem cells, the system detects these bodies as friendly and does not harm them; and since the vehicles do not release their cargo en route, they cannot harm healthy tissues. Only after they have reached the malignant tissue and homed in on it do they insert the gene into the tumor cells and initiate the production of the anticancer protein The nanoghosts are tiny particles made from the outer membrane of mesenchymal stem cells. These cells are able to selectively target various cancers.

With the technology, developed by Prof. Machluf together with doctoral student Limor Kaneti, these cells may be produced in large quantities in the laboratory, emptied of their contents and turned into empty packages – nanoghosts. Specific genes are inserted into these packages and begin to produce an anti-cancer protein only upon reaching the tumor. Therefore, they do not harm healthy tissue on their way to the target. Moreover, the anticancer protein impacts not only the target cells, but also adjacent cancer cells and the blood vessels that support the tumor.

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Nanoghosts, produced in the laboratory from stem cells, loaded with nucleic acids, injected into the patient and capable of navigating to the tumor.

biotechnology and food

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