UNSW Sydney scientists have developed a way to control the shape of polymer molecules so they self-assemble into non-spherical nanoparticles – an advance that could improve the delivery of toxic drugs to tumours.
“Very little in nature is perfectly spherical,” says study senior author Professor Pall Thordarson of the UNSW School of Chemistry.
“Most biological structures like cells, bacteria and viruses come in a variety of shapes including tubes, rods, and squashed spheres, or ellipsoids. But it has proved very difficult for scientists to synthesise particles that are not perfectly round.
“Our breakthrough means we can predictably make smart polymers that shift their shape according to the different conditions around them to form tiny ellipsoidal or tubular structures that can encapsulate drugs.
“We have preliminary evidence that these more natural-shaped plastic nanoparticles enter tumour cells more easily than spherical ones,” he says.