Researchers have developed a novel way to deliver drugs and therapies into cells at the nanoscale without causing toxic effects that have stymied other such efforts. The work could someday lead to more effective therapies and diagnostics for cancer and other illnesses.

Representation of the movement of the flower-like particle as it makes its way through a cellular trap to deliver therapeutic genes. (Credit: Washington State University)

The flower-like particle is about 150 nm in size. It is made of sheets of peptoids, which make for a good drug-delivery particle because they're fairly easy to synthesize and because they're similar to natural biological materials, work well in biological systems.

The researchers added fluorescent probes in their peptoid nanoflowers so they could trace them as they made their way through cells, and they added the element fluorine, which helped the nanoflowers more easily escape from tricky cellular traps that often impede drug delivery. The flower-like particles loaded with therapeutic genes were able to make their way smoothly out of the predicted cellular trap, enter the heart of the cell, and release their drug there.

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