Recent Research

The most recent works concentrate on the study of metabolic pattern of cancer cells using surface-charged nano-probes. We have recently found that the surface negative charges are the biophysical manifestation of the Warburg effect of cancer cells, associated with perpetual secretion of lactic acid. Using this approach, it is possible to directly detect and capture the so-called circulating tumor cells (CTC) in whole blood.

Another recent research deals with a new approach that is fundamentally different from all conventional cancer therapies that rely on diagnosis of the anatomic origins where the tumors are found. To treat cancers at molecular level, a recently developed “microRNA replacement therapy”is applied, utilizing nanocarriers, in order to regulate the driver oncogene, which is the core of cancer precision therapeutics. The outcome of the nano-mediated oncogenic regulation has to be accurately assessed by the genetically-characterized, patient-derived xenografts models.

Nano Detection of Circulating Tumor Cells

Diagram of CTC electrostatic capturing and magnetic separating process

Figure 1: CTC Capturing

Cancer cells may detach from the original tumor and enter lymphatic fluid and/or blood upon formation of malignant tumor. These mobile cells are defined as circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and believed to be responsible for metastasis. We have developed a novel approach that can sensitively detect CTCs from whole blood via nanotechnologies.

Nanoparticle binding on cancer cells

Figure 2: Nanoparticle binding on cancer cells

The concept is quite straightforward. It has been found that all cancer cells share a hallmark metabolic pattern: high rate of glycolysis, resulting in a net of negative electrical charges on cancer cell surfaces. The positively-charged Fe3O4 magnetic nanoparticles can electrostatically bind onto CTCs and magnetically separate them from physiological fluids. Fig 1 shows the schematic diagram of CTC electrostatic capturing and magnetic separating process. Fig. 2 shows the fluorescent image of cancer cell nuclei (blue) and surface electrostatically bound Fe3O4 nanoparticles (green).