IIT Mandi researchers use smart particles to treat cancer

The research findings have been published in the journal Carbohydrate Polymers

IIT Mandi

MANDI: Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Mandi (IITM) have developed smart nanoparticles based on natural polymers to treat colorectal cancer. These nanoparticles release the drug in response to cues that are specific to the tumour tissue.

The research findings have been published in the journal Carbohydrate Polymers. Dr. Ankur Sood, Ms. Aastha Gupta, and Prof. Neal Silverman and his team from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts, United States of America, as well as Dr. Garima Agrawal, Assistant Professor in the School of Basic Sciences, have also contributed to the research. The Science and Engineering Research Board of the Indian Government and IIT Mandi both funded the study.

In addition to increasing mortality rates globally, colorectal cancer has a severe financial impact on the world's healthcare systems. It ranks second among cancers in the world for both women and men, and it is the third most prevalent among both. The fourth most common cause of cancer-related death worldwide, it accounts for 8% of all cancer-related fatalities.

Dr. Garima Agrawal said, "One of the driving interests among the material science and healthcare communities performing interdisciplinary work is the development of biodegradable nanoparticles from renewable resources and designing them in such a way that they can release the drug in response to stimuli that are specific to cancer sites only."

Further, Dr. Agrawal mentioned, "The designed system should be capable of supporting drugs having different solubility in water. In this regard, the simplest approach that we followed for developing biodegradable nanoparticles is using chitosan, which is a naturally derived polymer, in combination with disulfide chemistry.

IIT Mandi researchers have developed redox-responsive chitosan/stearic acid nanoparticles (CSSA NPs) as drug carriers for both curcumin (hydrophobic; a component of turmeric that is used daily in food) and doxorubicin (hydrophilic) drug delivery targeting colorectal cancer. This approach of combining anticancer drugs having different modes of anticancer action allows us to develop systems for cancer therapy with enhanced efficacy.

Talking about the uniqueness of their research, Ms. Aastha Gupta, research scholar, IIT Mandi, said, "We have synthesised nanoparticles based on disulfide (SS) crosslinking chemistry via air oxidation of thiolated chitosan and thiolated stearic acid, thus avoiding the use of any external crosslinking agent. We have tried five different combinations of thiolated polymers to select the combination best suitable for obtaining stable and uniform nanoparticles. The presence of disulfide bonds allows the degradation of these smart nanoparticles at the tumour site owing to the higher glutathione content in cancer cells. "

The researchers at IIT Mandi have developed biodegradable nanoparticles from renewable resources, thus reducing the dependency on petroleum-based polymers. These smart nanoparticles are stable under physiological conditions and degrade at the tumour site in the presence of redox stimuli from cancer cells. These nanoparticles can be used to successfully load and release both hydrophilic and hydrophobic drugs, each having a different anticancer mechanism, which can help to improve the treatment efficiency.

Researchers have also investigated cancer cell killing efficiency through in vitro studies and the colon targeting ability of the designed system through in vivo biodistribution experiments on c57bl/6j mice.

The research team further plans to perform biological studies to gain deeper insight into the potential of the developed system for colorectal cancer treatment.

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