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How Algae Is Changing Cancer Treatment

As a leading provider of senior home care in Albuquerque, we know firsthand that for many cancer patients, treatment involves using chemotherapy that kills cancer cells but also causes damage to healthy tissue. A new study published in the Nature Communications Journal suggests that genetically engineered algae might offer patients a more effective, less harmful, and less expensive alternative. Laboratory tests using mice showed that the engineered algae killed 90 percent of cancer cells without damaging healthy cells.

Diatom Microalgae

Researchers from Germany and Australia teamed up to alter single-cell diatom microalgae, one of the most common types of plankton, so that they could be used for the delivery of anti-cancer drugs to cancerous cells. Diatom cells are unique in that they’re enclosed with frustules, cell walls made of silica, which is a material that is often used for developing nanoparticle medicine. Unlike other silica-based nanoparticles, however, the altered algae are non-toxic.

Targeted Chemotherapy

In the controlled experiment, scientists loaded the algae with chemotherapeutic drugs and produced a specific antibody protein on the surface of the diatoms that would bind them to the molecules of cancerous cells. The algae-derived biosilica was then injected into mice infected with neuroblastoma tumors. A single dose not only killed around 90 percent of the malignant cells but shrank the size of the tumor as well.

Cost-Saving Benefits

Although research in this novel technology is still in its early stages, this organic-based delivery system may offer an affordable alternative to the expensive targeting therapies already on the market. Requiring only light and water, algae are cheap and easy to grow. Measuring just a few micrometers in size, each organism is ten times smaller than the width of a human air, so the algae can be cultivated virtually anywhere.

While further studies are needed, genetically altered algae may turn out to be the effective and inexpensive cancer-fighting drug delivery system for which the world has been waiting.

If your senior loved one is undergoing treatment for a serious illness, he or she could likely benefit from additional help at home. Reach out to Home Care Assistance and learn more about our hourly and live-in home care in Albuquerque. Our experienced and compassionate caregivers help with routine tasks at home, provide transportation to appointments, and can offer emotional support and companionship. For more information, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 505-798-0800. We are here to help.