The researchers have created differently shaped nanoparticles, which are each designed to release their medicinal payloads at different times. According to MIT, the is externally controlled and could be used to provide patients with up to three or four drugs at a time.
"With a lot of diseases, especially cancer and AIDS, you get a synergistic effect with more than one drug," Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli, an assistant professor of biological and mechanical engineering at MIT, said in a statement.
MIT noted in an announcement about the research effort that doctors already use drug-delivery devices but that the existing ones generally can release only two drugs at a time. And the timing of the medicine's release typically has to be be built into the delivery device itself, as opposed to being controlled by doctors from outside of a patient's body, according to MIT.
For the new delivery system, the MIT researchers are using gold nanoparticles in conjunction with infrared lights. When the particles are exposed to the lights, they dissolve and release their drug payloads. Nanoparticles with different shapes respond to different infrared wavelengths, so doctors should be able to release drugs at desired intervals by adjusting the wavelengths, said Andy Wijaya, an MIT graduate student who is working on the project.
Using nanotechnology to fight cancer is an idea that has been growing. Earlier this month, for example, researchers at reported that by using the same type of nanotechnology that enables hard drives to read and write data, they have developed a system that should in the human body.