Sleeping Trojan horse to transport metal ions into cancer cells

11-Feb-2011 - United Kingdom

UK scientists have made a ‘sleeping Trojan horse’ that transports metal ions into cells that could be used in drug delivery and to image diseased cells.

Michael Coogan and colleagues made a rhenium, polypyridine-based molecular vessel. It was membrane impermeant when empty, but when it was loaded with metal ions, it was taken up by human adenocarcinoma cells and localised in the cells’ nucleoli (a small body of protein in a cell nucleus). This could be useful not only for the ability to image nucleoli, but also suggests applications in radiotherapy as Auger electrons emitted by certain isotopes are often considered to be most effective at killing tumour cells when in close proximity to nucleic acids.

The system is an inspiring prototype for the design of biocompatible delivery systems for application in bimodal imaging and/or therapeutics, say the researchers.

Transporting metal ions across biological membranes and into cells is a major challenge across a range of biomedical disciplines owing to their many applications in imaging, sensing and medicine. In therapeutic applications, a luminescent ligand allows tracking of the agent.

Original publication

F L Thorp-Greenwood, V Fernández-Moreira, C O Millet, C F Williams, J Cable, J B Court, A J Hayes, D Lloyd and M P Coogan, Chem. Comm., 2011.

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