As the liquid metal dissolves it releases gallium ions, which the researchers say further boosts the effectiveness of anticancer drugs
Scientists are increasingly turning to nanoparticles in search of new ways to treat cancer. Tiny nanorobots that way through the bloodstream and microscopic particles that blow up diseased cells are a couple of menacing examples. But none sound quite so ominous as a new technique under development at North Carolina State University (NCSU). Its researchers have designed liquid metal particles they describe as “Nano-Terminators” that latch onto cancer cells to more effectively deliver drugs that kill them off.
The process begins with gallium indium alloy, a liquid metal that NCSU scientists seem to have some affinity for. Last year, they used it in the development of metals capable of changing surface tension and shape, in a promising step toward morphing electronics and perhaps even self-assembling terminator-style robots.
In using gallium indium alloy to take the fight to cancer, a team led by assistant professor in joint biomedical engineering Zhen Gu placed the liquid metal in a solution that contained two different types of molecules, known as polymeric ligands. Applying an ultrasound to the solution then caused the metal to bust apart into tiny droplets, each measuring around 100 nanometers in diameter.