A team of researchers at the Center for Self-assembly and Complexity, within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) developed novel nano-containers that are capable to deliver anticancer drugs at precise timing and location.
These nano-containers are developed to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy on healthy tissues.
The tailed pumpkin-shaped molecules, mono-allyloxylates cucurbit uril, act as a surfactant in water.
In addition, most of the surfactants like soap molecules in bubbles and phospholipids in cellular membranes, have small water-loving (hydrophilic) heads and long fat-loving (hydrophobic) tails.
These tails determine how they arrange in space. AO1CB is unconventional as it forms vesicles in the water despite its short hydrophobic allyloxy tail.
AO1CB molecules are united into colloidal particles by tails. When shaken in the water, AO1CB forms a cloudy solution and the formed vesicles are used as vehicles to carry anticancer drugs.
The drugs could be released on demand by controlling when and where the vesicles are broken.
Beyond helping AO1CB  to self-assemble, the allyloxy tail is also light-responsive: it can react with molecules such as glutathione normally present in cells when irradiated by UV light (365 nanometer wavelength).
The reaction between the tails and glutathione molecules breaks the AO1CB  vesicles apart.
A near-infrared two-photon laser that has the capability to penetrate deeper into tissues with enhanced accuracy was employed instead of UV single-photon laser.
The two-photon laser (wavelength 720 nanometers) is a better tool to use than a single-photon laser (365 nanometers) as it can reach deeper inside flesh with less scattering.
The drug delivery is limited to the targeted area as the irradiated is smaller. It results in less damage to healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.
This technology has been applied in the laboratory to deliver the chemotherapeutic drug Doxorubicin to cervical cancer cells (HeLa cells).
The drug was capable to exit the vesicles and reach the nucleus of the cancer cells, and eventually kill them.