Nanomedicine for liver cancer developed by Amrita researchers obtains a patent in the United States and Australia

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  • Source: PA
  • Date: Sep 13, 2022

Mumbai 13e September 2022: Researchers at the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham School of Nanoscience and Molecular Medicine have been granted a patent in the United States and Australia for a promising new nanomedicine for the early detection and treatment of cirrhosis and tumors of the liver. The invention is the result of a research project funded by the Nanobiotechnology Task Force of the Department of Biotechnology, Government. from India.

Dr Shantikumar V Nair and teacher Dr. Manzoor Koyakutty from the Amrita School of Nanosciences & Molecular Medicine in Kochi led a team of four researchers – Dr. Anusha Ashokan, Dr. Ida M Anna, Dr. Vijay Harish, Dr. Badrinath Sridharan – to create a special type of nanomedicine that responds to radio wave signals sent from outside the body. Once the nanoparticles are injected into a tumor, they can be heated using medically approved external radio waves. Doctors can view the tumor using an MRI machine and burn it in a controlled manner.

The drug, which is triggered by external radio waves, can be used not only for medical imaging of tumors, but also for targeted drug delivery.

Amrita researchers have demonstrated that the new technology can be used for the early detection of liver cirrhosis and liver tumor, image-guided treatment at an early stage of liver tumor using of radiofrequency ablation therapy as well as labeling and tracking the movement of stem cells inside the body after stem cell transplantation to assess the effectiveness of therapy.

Said Dr. Manzoor Koyakutty, Professor, Amrita Center for Nanosciences and Molecular Medicine: “We have created a unique nanomedicine that can be used for medical imaging, combined with drug delivery. Its particles consist of synthetically prepared calcium phosphate, a biomineral found in our bones. Generally, chemically prepared inorganic nanoparticles pose safety concerns when used as nanomedicines. However, as a biomineral, calcium phosphate is biocompatible and biodegradable, so completely safe for humans.

He added: “We engineered the nanoparticles through a process called ‘doping’ where a few hundred calcium atoms are replaced with iron atoms. This makes the material “magnetic” and so its movement inside our body can be visualized with a device such as MRI. Using this property, we have demonstrated the early detection of liver cirrhosis and liver tumor. In another study, we showed the therapeutic application of this nanomedicine in the treatment of liver tumors by thermal ablation (burning) of cancerous cells by activating the nanoparticles using radiofrequency waves.

Speaking of another application of the invention, Dr Shantikumar V Nair, Dean of Amrita School of Nanosciences and Molecular Medicine said: “We have labeled stem cells with these nanoparticles and demonstrated the possibility of following their movements in the brain by MRI, after stem cell transplant therapy. At present, doctors cannot see the fate of stem cells after transplantation. But calcium phosphate nanoparticles can give stem cells magnetic contrast under MRI, so we can visually estimate whether stem cells are migrating to the site of damage. This helps us to understand whether or not stem cell therapy has been effective for a patient.

Dr Shantikumar V Nair said two key features make Amrita nano-medicine unique. “First, it makes nanomedicine imageable inside our body using medical imaging modalities such as MRI. Second, we can activate these nanoparticles externally using radio frequency waves. This allows us to see the precise location of nanomedicine particles inside the body and activate them from the outside when they are exactly at the site of a disease like cancer. These features are not available in any other nanomedicine available today.

He added, “We are currently investigating the potential application of these nanoparticles in cancer immunotherapy with the support of the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) and an Indo-Swiss collaboration with the Institute Ludwig Cancer Research Center, University of Lausanne and University of Geneva, Switzerland. With support from the Department of Biotechnology, Govt. from India, we are currently testing regulatory safety studies in large animal models. We plan to conduct human trials of nanomedicine within the next year.

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