Nature's Solution? Fungus Goes From Predator To Cancer Fighter

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The scientific community's love affair with nanoparticles is well known. Because of their unique physical and chemical properties, these extremely small particles are used in chemical, biological, engineering and medical applications. In the field of medicine, particularly oncology, nanoparticle technology is said to be very useful in providing an effective and targeted drug delivery.

Naturally occurring nanoparticles have drawn considerable amount of attention in view of their properties such as biocompatibility, biodegradability and non-immunogenicity.

One such natural source of nanoparticles having the potential to fight cancer has been discovered by a team of researchers led by Mingjun Zhang, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Guess what the source is?

It is a predatory fungus - Arthrobotrys oligospora that captures and feeds on roundworms.

While examining Arthrobotrys oligospora's trapping mechanism for roundworms, the researchers found that the fungus secretes nanoparticles. Further investigation of the fungal nanoparticles' potential as a stimulant for the immune system revealed that the nanoparticles activate a secretion of an immune-system stimulant within the white blood cell line.

Commenting on the discovery, Zhang said, "This study could be the entrance into a gold mine of new materials to treat cancers. Understanding how these nanostructures are formed in the natural systems will also provide templates for the synthesis of a future generation of engineered nanostructures for biomedical applications."

The research work is published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

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