Biomimicry or biomimetics is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products and processes inspired by biological solutions at macro and nanoscales. Humans have looked at nature for answers to problems throughout their existence and nature has solved engineering problems such as self-healing abilities, environmental exposure tolerance and resistance, hydrophobicity, self-assembly, as well as harnessing solar energy. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a biomimetic nanoparticle that uses a tumour cell’s protective mechanism against itself, in effect short-circuiting tumour cell metabolism and killing tumour cells. The study is published in the journal Nanotechnology.
Previous studies show that many nano-biomimetics are now under active development. It is known that biomolecules are capable of self-assembly in regular structures. Using this self-assembling mechanism and the biostructures as matrices, nanoconductors and nanotubes can be created. Knowing the structure and functions of biological molecules, researchers can synthesise hybrid molecules, including peptides, lipids and organic polymers, and develop biomimetic nanofibres, bioinorganic composites and nanoporous coatings for tissue engineering. The current study shows the tumoricidal ability of an inorganic nanoparticles which mimic leukocyte’s functional abilities successfully in an animal model.
The current study uses a semiconducting nanoparticle with an attached platinum electrode to drive the synthesis of an anti-cancer compound when illuminated by light. Results show that the biomimetic nanoparticle copies the behaviour of NADPH oxidase, an enzyme used by immune cells to kill tumour cells and infectious agents. The lab explain that as tumour cells typically use NADPH to protect themselves from toxins, the more NADPH they synthesize for protection, the faster they die.
In a four-year study conducted on a mouse model in advanced breast cancer metastasis in the eye’s anterior chamber, data findings show that the new nanoparticle not only killed tumour cells in the eye, it also extended the survival of experimental mice bearing 4T1 tumours, a cell line that is notoriously difficult to kill. The group state that previous monotherapies have not extended the lifetimes of mice bearing this type of tumour, unlike their work which has extended survival of the mice.
The team surmise that their treatment offers many advantages; firstly, their nanoparticle produces about 20 million toxins per hour in each cell and is activated by light, so it can be turned on and off simply by exposing it to the correct color of visible light. For the future, the researchers state that this nano-biomimetic also has the potential to be used for multiple applications in ophthalmology and other disciplines.