Nanodiamonds show potential for cancer drug delivery

In collaboration with the Press Association

US scientists have shown that a new class of nanomaterials called 'nanodiamonds' could be effective at delivering chemotherapy drugs safely to cancer cells.

Publishing their findings in the journal Nano Letters, researchers from Northwestern University reveal that clusters of nanodiamonds are capable of carrying a chemotherapy drug without adversely affecting healthy cells, and of releasing the drug slowly once its target has been reached.

The study also showed that nanodiamonds do not cause cell inflammation, a serious complication that can be caused by materials currently used for drug delivery, and one that can contribute to the development of cancer.

Dean Ho, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering at the university's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, said: "There are a lot of materials that can deliver drugs well, but we need to look at what happens after drug delivery.

"Nanodiamonds are highly ordered structures, which cells like. If they didn't, cells would become inflamed. From a patient's perspective, this is very important. And that's why clinicians are interested in our work."

The researchers found that they could load the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin hydrochloride onto aggregated clusters of nanodiamonds so that the drug only becomes active once the cluster reaches its target and breaks apart.

In addition, tests in which cells were exposed to drug-free nanodiamonds suggested that the particles would not not cause toxicity, long-term inflammation or cell death.

Lead author Dr Houjin Huang, a postdoctoral fellow in the research team, described nanodiamonds as "very special".

"They are extremely stable, and you can do a lot of chemistry on the surface to further functionalise them for targeting purposes.

"In addition to functionality, they also offer safety - the first priority to consider for clinical purposes. It's very rare to have a nanomaterial that offers both," he added.