Scientists from the University of Surrey have developed ‘intelligent’ nanoparticles that heat up to a temperature high enough to kill cancerous cells — but which then self-regulate and lose heat before they get hot enough to harm healthy tissue.

Self-stopping nanoparticles could be used to treat cancer.
(Credit: University of Surrey)

The self-stopping nanoparticles could soon be used as part of hyperthermic-thermotherapy to treat patients with cancer, according to an exciting new study reported in Nanoscale.

The Zn-Co-Cr ferrite nanoparticles produced for this study are self-regulating, meaning that they self-stop heating when they reach temperatures over 45 °C. Importantly, the nanoparticles are also low in toxicity and are unlikely to cause permanent damage to the body.

Thermotherapy has long been used as a treatment method for cancer, but it is difficult to treat patients without damaging healthy cells. However, tumor cells can be weakened or killed without affecting normal tissue if temperatures can be controlled accurately within a range of 42° to 45 °C.