New nanotechnology approach could transform gliomas from death sentence into treatable condition

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December 23, 2015

Researchers from Penn State University College of Medicine have created “smart fat cells,” or liposomes that can detect smaller, early-stage gliomas in mice before they become malignant and deadly. 

The ‘smart fat cells’ are small enough to pass through the blood-brain barrier, which typically captures and blocks 98% of small molecules and all large molecules from entering the brain. This barrier is problematic for effective tumor detection and treatments of brain cancers. Once they pass  through the barrier, the smart fat cells are able to seek out tumor cells due to being studded with proteins that target the glioma tumor cells. According to researchers, the smart fat cells are also loaded with an agent that will ‘light up’ on the MRI allowing the detection of these early-stage tumors.

This technology, developed by Xiaoli Liu and Madhan Kumar in the Department of Neurosurgery at Penn State, could transform gliomas into a treatable condition by potentially delivering chemotherapeutic drugs and contrast agents to brain tumor patients and eliminating cancer cells in one step.

“The goal is to be able to get down to detecting single cancer cells,” said James Conner, professor of Neurosurgery at Penn State College of Medicine.

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