Enzyme-powered nanomotors deliver anti-cancer drugs more efficiently

IBEC researchers have demonstrated that their enzyme-powered nanobots show a marked improvement in drug delivery efficiency over passive ones.

The Advanced Functional Materials paper is the result of two years of work at IBEC, where Samuel Sanchez’s group has been experimenting with enzyme catalysis to power micro- and nanomotors. By consuming biocompatible fuels, these nanoparticles can then be used for biomedical applications such as targeted drug delivery to cancer cells.

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The researchers show that their urease-powered nanomotors (nanobots) are efficient delivery systems for the anticancer drug Dox. Analysis confirms that these mesoporous silica-based core–shell nanobots are able to self-propel in ionic media, and a higher content of Dox inside HeLa cells was detected after one, four, six, and 24 hours of incubation using the active nanoparticles compared to passive ones loaded with the same drug.

“This improved efficiency against cancer is the result of enhanced drug release working in synergy with the ammonia being produced at high concentrations by the urea substrate,” says ICREA research professor Samuel.

The improvement in drug delivery efficiency achieved by enzyme-powered nanobots may hold potential toward their future use in biomedical applications, such as the substrate-triggered release of drugs in targeted locations.

Article citation: Ana C. Hortelão, Tania Patiño, Ariadna Perez-Jiménez, Àngel Blanco & Samuel Sánchez (2017). Enzyme-Powered Nanobots Enhance Anticancer Drug Delivery. Advanced Functional Materials, epub ahead of print