Montréal -- Researchers at Polytechnique Montréal have succeeded in changing the genetic material of cancer cells using a brand-new transfection method. This major breakthrough in nanosurgery opens the door to new medical applications, among others for the treatment of cancers.
A light scalpel to treat cancerous cells
The unique method developed by Professor Michel Meunier and his team uses a femtosecond laser (a laser with ultra-short pulses) along with gold nanoparticles. Deposited on the cells, these nanoparticles concentrate the laser's energy and make it possible to perform nanometric-scale surgery in an extremely precise and non-invasive fashion. The technique allows to change the expression of genes in the cancer cells and could be used to slow their migration and prevent the formation of metastases.
The technique perfected by Professor Meunier and his colleagues is a promising alternative to conventional cellular transfection methods, such as lipofection. The experiment, carried out in Montréal laboratories on malignant human melanoma cells, demonstrated 70% optoporation effectiveness, as well as a transfection performance three times higher than lipofection treatment. In addition, unlike conventional treatment, which destroys the physical integrity of the cells, the new method assures cellular viability, with a toxicity of less than 1%. The study's results were published in the prestigious journal Biomaterials.
This major scientific breakthrough could lead to the development of promising applications, including new therapeutic approaches in oncology, neurology and cardiology.
Professor Meunier's team works in collaboration with researchers from the Department of Medicine at the McGill University Health Centre. Their research work receives financial support from the Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Nature et les Technologies (FQRNT), the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Canada Research Chairs program (CRC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).
About Polytechnique Montreal
Founded in 1873, Polytechnique Montréal is one of Canada's leading engineering teaching and research institutions. It is the largest engineering university in Québec for the size of its student body and the scope of its research activities. With over 38,500 graduates, Polytechnique Montréal has graduated 25% of the current members of the l'Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec. Polytechnique provides training in 16 engineering specialties, has 242 professors and more than 7,100 students. It has an annual operating budget of over $200 million, including a $72-million research budget.
REFERENCE: Baumgart J. et al., Off-resonance plasmonic enhanced femtosecond laser optoporation and transfection of cancer cells, Biomaterials (2012), doi:10.1016/j.biomaterials.2011.11.062
Photos of Professor Meunier and his team, as well as images illustrating the study, are available upon request.
Website for Polytechnique Montréal's Laser Processing and Plasmonics Laboratory: http://www.groupes.polymtl.ca/lpl/
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