Gold nanoparticles and laser beams will be researched as a new non-invasive treatment for cancer at a Technion-Israel Institute for Technology lab financed with â‚¬2 million from the European Union and a large previous donation from philanthropist Lorry Lokey of San Francisco.
The potential treatment is meant to have minimal side effects and low toxicity to healthy cells near the tumor.
The Technion's faculty of biomedicine in Haifa opened the lab last week. Thanks to Lokey's $30m. donation in 2006, the Technion established the Lokey Interdisciplinary Center for Life Sciences and Engineering, headed by Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Aaron Ciechanover. This multidisciplinary lab includes researchers from physics, optics, biology, biomedicine and nanotechnology.
This innovative treatment is arousing great interest here and around the world, and now the research has been awarded two significant grants - â‚¬2m. from the EU and $1m. from the Israel Science Foundation.
Dr. Dvir Yelin from the biomedicine faculty is developing technology that makes it possible to wipe out cancer cells in a very selective, non-toxic manner. Gold nanoparticles with very low toxicity reach the tumor.
"After they are injected into the blood, they reach their target, and then we beam lasers on the growth using a miniature endoscope based on fiber optics," explained. Yelin. "The laser has two special parameters: It is made up of very short bursts (a few millionths of a billionth of a second) that are capable of breaking apart the cell material without heating it up. The laser also has a wavelength that exactly matches the resonance frequency of the nanoparticles, thus enabling a high degree of efficiency in the process of amplifying the laser."
Under these conditions, at a distance of a few nanometers (each a millionth of a millimeter) from the nanoparticle surface, an intensity of light is created that is enough to break apart (ionize) the biological material inside the malignant cell, which dies without causing damage to the healthy cells around it.
Lokey was present at the lab inauguration ceremony, along with Ciechanover, Technion heads and a delegation of researchers from the University of Oregon, to which Lorry Lokey, who grew up in Portland, is also a large contributor.