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Nanoparticles are the future of medicine – researchers are experimenting with new ways to design tiny particle treatments for cancer

The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines put nanomedicine in the spotlight as a potential way to treat diseases like cancer and HIV. While the field isn’t there yet,…

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Nanoparticles can help cancer drugs home in on tumors and avoid damaging healthy cells. Kateryna Kon/Science Photo Library via Getty Images

When you hear the word “nanomedicine,” it might call to mind scenarios like those in the 1966 movie “Fantastic Voyage.” The film portrays a medical team shrunken down to ride a microscopic robotic ship through a man’s body to clear a blood clot in his brain.

Nanomedicine has not reached that level of sophistication yet. Although scientists can generate nanomaterials smaller then several nanometers – the “nano” indicating one-billionth of a meter – today’s nanotechnology has not been able to generate functional electronic robotics tiny enough to inject safely into the bloodstream. But since the concept of nanotechnology was first introduced in the 1970s, it has made its mark in many everyday products, including electronics, fabrics, food, water and air treatment processes, cosmetics and drugs. Given these successes across different fields, many medical researchers were eager to use nanotechnology to diagnose and treat disease.

I am a pharmaceutical scientist who was inspired by the promise of nanomedicine. My lab has worked on developing cancer treatments using nanomaterials over the past 20 years. While nanomedicine has seen many successes, some researchers like me have been disappointed by its underwhelming overall performance in cancer. To better translate success in the lab to treatments in the clinic, we proposed a new way to design cancer drugs using nanomaterials. Using this strategy, we developed a treatment that was able to achieve full remission in mice with metastatic breast cancer.

While nanomedicine isn’t “Fantastic Voyage,” it shares the film’s treatment goal of delivering a drug exactly where it needs to go.

What is nanomedicine?

Nanomedicine refers to the use of materials at the nanoscale to diagnose and treat disease. Some researchers define nanomedicine as encompassing any medical products using nanomaterials smaller than 1,000 nanometers. Others more narrowly use the term to refer to injectable drugs using nanoparticles smaller than 200 nanometers. Anything larger may not be safe to inject into the bloodstream.

Several nanomaterials have been successfully used in vaccines. The most well-known examples today are the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. These vaccines used a nanoparticle made of of lipids, or fatty acids, that helps carry the mRNA to where it needs to go in the body to trigger an immune response.

Researchers have also successfully used nanomaterials in diagnostics and medical imaging. Rapid COVID-19 tests and pregnancy tests use gold nanoparticles to form the colored band that designates a positive result. Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, often uses nanoparticles as contrast agents that help make an image more visible.

Gold is one type of nanoparticle whose uses researchers are testing in a range of contexts.

Several nanoparticle-based drugs have been approved for cancer treatment. Doxil (doxorubicin) and Abraxane (paclitaxel) are chemotherapy drugs that use nanomaterials as a delivery mechanism to improve treatment efficacy and reduce side effects.

Cancer and nanomedicine

The potential of nanomedicine to improve a drug’s effectiveness and reduce its toxicity is attractive for cancer researchers working with anti-cancer drugs that often have strong side effects. Indeed, 65% of clinical trials using nanoparticles are focused on cancer.

The idea is that nanoparticle cancer drugs could act like biological missiles that destroy tumors while minimizing damage to healthy organs. Because tumors have leaky blood vessels, researchers believe this would allow nanoparticles to accumulate in tumors. Conversely, because nanoparticles can circulate in the bloodstream longer than traditional cancer treatments, they could accumulate less in healthy organs and reduce toxicity.

Although these design strategies have been successful in mouse models, most nanoparticle cancer drugs have not been shown to be more effective than other cancer drugs. Furthermore, while some nanoparticle-based drugs can reduce toxicity to certain organs, they may increase toxicity in others. For example, while the nanoparticle-based Doxil decreases damage to the heart compared with other chemotherapy options, it can increase the risk of developing hand-foot syndrome.

The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines spurred excitement about nanoedicine’s potential applications to other diseases.

Improving nanoparticle-based cancer drugs

To investigate ways to improve how nanoparticle-based cancer drugs are designed, my research team and I examined how well five approved nanoparticle-based cancer drugs accumulate in tumors and avoid healthy cells compared with the same cancer drugs without nanoparticles. Based on the findings of our lab study, we proposed that designing nanoparticles to be more specific to their intended target could improve their translation from animal models to people. This includes creating nanoparticles that address the shortcomings of a particular drug – such as common side effects – and home in on the types of cells they should be targeting in each particular cancer type.

[Get fascinating science, health and technology news. Sign up for The Conversation’s weekly science newsletter.]

Using these criteria, we designed a nanoparticle-based immunotherapy for metastatic breast cancer. We first identified that breast cancer has a type of immune cell that suppresses immune response, helping the cancer become resistant to treatments that stimulate the immune system to attack tumors. We hypothesized that while drugs could overcome this resistance, they are unable to sufficiently accumulate in these cells to succeed. So we designed nanoparticles made of a common protein called albumin that could deliver cancer drugs directly to where these immune-suppressing cells are located.

When we tested our nanoparticle-based treatment on mice genetically modified to have breast cancer, we were able to eliminate the tumor and achieve complete remission. All of the mice were still alive 200 days after birth. We’re hopeful it will eventually translate from animal models to cancer patients.

Nanomedicine’s bright but realistic future

The success of some drugs that use nanoparticles, such as the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, has prompted excitement among researchers and the public about their potential use in treating various other diseases, including talks about a future cancer vaccine. However, a vaccine for an infectious disease is not the same as a vaccine for cancer. Cancer vaccines may require different strategies to overcome treatment resistance. Injecting a nanoparticle-based vaccine into the bloodstream also has different design challenges than injecting into muscle.

While the field of nanomedicine has made good progress in getting drugs or diagnostics out of the lab and into the clinic, it still has a long road ahead. Learning from past successes and failures can help researchers develop breakthroughs that allow nanomedicine to live up to its promise.

Duxin Sun receives funding from NIH, FDA and Pharmaceutical Industries for his lab research at The University of Michigan.

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China Suggests It Could Maintain ‘Zero COVID’ Policy For 5 Years

China Suggests It Could Maintain ‘Zero COVID’ Policy For 5 Years

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

China has suggested it will…

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China Suggests It Could Maintain 'Zero COVID' Policy For 5 Years

Authored by Paul Joseph Watson via Summit News,

China has suggested it will maintain its controversial ‘zero COVID’ policy for at least 5 years, eschewing natural immunity and guaranteeing repeated rounds of new lockdowns.

“In the next five years, Beijing will unremittingly grasp the normalization of epidemic prevention and control,” said a story published by Beijing Daily.

The article quoted Cai Qi, the Communist Party of China’s secretary in Beijing and a former mayor of the city, who said that ‘zero COVID’ approach would remain in place for 5 years.

After the story prompted alarm, reference to “five years” was removed from the piece and the hashtag related to it was censored by social media giant Weibo.

“Monday’s announcement and the subsequent amendment sparked anger and confusion among Beijing residents online,” reports the Guardian.

“Most commenters appeared unsurprised at the prospect of the system continuing for another half-decade, but few were supportive of the idea.”

Although western experts severely doubt official numbers coming out of China, Beijing claimed success in limiting COVID deaths by enforcing the policy throughout 2021.

However, this meant that China never achieved anything like herd immunity, and at one stage the Omicron variant caused more more coronavirus cases in Shanghai in four weeks than in the previous two years of the entire pandemic.

Back in May, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus suggested that China would be better off if it abandoned the policy, but Beijing refused to budge.

As we previously highlighted, the only way of enforcing a ‘zero COVID’ policy is via brutal authoritarianism.

In Shanghai, children were separated from their parents in quarantine facilities and others were left without urgent treatment like kidney dialysis.

Panic buying of food also became a common occurrence as the anger threatened to spill over into widespread civil unrest.

Former UK government COVID-19 advisor Neil Ferguson previously admitted that he thought “we couldn’t get away with” imposing Communist Chinese-style lockdowns in Europe because they were too draconian, and yet it happened anyway.

“It’s a communist one party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought,” said Ferguson.

“And then Italy did it. And we realised we could,” he added.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden Tue, 06/28/2022 - 18:05

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No sign of major crude oil price decline any time soon

Bullish pressure on crude oil markets doesn’t seem to be easing Crude oil prices fell last week, notching their second weekly decline in the face of…

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Bullish pressure on crude oil markets doesn’t seem to be easing

Crude oil prices fell last week, notching their second weekly decline in the face of concern that rising interest rates could push the global economy into recession.

Yet the future of crude oil still seems bullish to many. Spare capacity, or lack of it, is just one of the reasons.

The global surplus of crude production capacity in May was less than half the 2021 average, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported on Friday.

The EIA estimated that as of May, producers in nations not members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had about 280,000 barrels per day (bpd) of surplus capacity, down sharply from 1.4 million bpd in 2021. It said 60 per cent of the May 2021 figure was from Russia, which is increasingly under sanctions related to its invasion of Ukraine.

The OPEC+ alliance of oil producers is running out of capacity to pump crude, and that includes its most significant member, Saudi Arabia, Nigerian Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva told Bloomberg last week.

“Some people believe the prices to be a little bit on the high side and expect us to pump a little bit more, but at this moment there is really little additional capacity,” Sylva said in a briefing with reporters on Friday. “Even Saudi Arabia, Russia, of course, Russia, is out of the market now more or less.” Nigeria was also unable to fulfil its output obligations, added Sylva.

Recent COVID-19-related lockdowns in parts of China – the world’s largest crude importer – also played a significant role in the global oil dynamics. The lack of Chinese oil consumption due to the lockdowns helped keep the markets in a check – somewhat.

Oil prices haven’t peaked yet because Chinese demand has yet to return to normal, a United Arab Emirates official told a conference in Jordan early this month. “If we continue consuming, with the pace of consumption we have, we are nowhere near the peak because China is not back yet,” UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said. “China will come with more consumption.”

Al-Mazrouei warned that without more investment across the globe, OPEC and its allies can’t guarantee sufficient supplies of oil as demand fully recovers from the pandemic.

But the check on the Chinese crude consumption seems to be easing.

On Saturday, Beijing, a city of 21 million-plus people, announced that primary and secondary schools would resume in-person classes. And as life seemed to return to normal, the Universal Beijing Resort, which was closed for nearly two months, reopened on Saturday.

Chinese economic hub Shanghai, with a population of 28 million-plus people, also declared victory over COVID after reporting zero new local cases for the first time in two months.

The two major cities were among several places in China that implemented curbs to stop the spread of the omicron wave from March to May.

But the easing of sanctions should mean oil’s price trajectory will resume its upward march.

In the meantime, in the U.S., the Biden administration is eying tougher anti-smog requirements. According to Bloomberg, that could negatively impact drilling across parts of the Permian Basin, which straddles Texas and New Mexico and is the world’s biggest oil field.

While the world is looking for clues about what the loss of supply from Russia will mean, reports are pouring in that the ongoing political turmoil in Libya could plague its oil output throughout the year.

The return of blockades on oilfields and export terminals amid renewed political tension is depriving the market of some of Libya’s oil at a time of tight global supply, said Tsvetana Paraskova in a piece for Oilrpice.com.

And in the ongoing political push to strangle Russian energy output, the G7 was reportedly discussing a price cap on oil imports from Russia. Western countries are increasingly frustrated that their efforts to squeeze out Russian energy supplies from the markets have had the counterproductive effect of driving up the global crude price, which is leading to Russia earning more money for its war chest.

To tackle the issue, and increase pressure on Russia, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is proposing a price cap on Russian crude oil sales. The idea is to lift the sanction on insurance for Russian crude cargo for countries that accept buying Russian oil at an agreed maximum price. Her proposal is aimed at squeezing Russian crude out of the market as much as possible.

So the bullish pressure on crude oil markets doesn’t seem to be easing.

By Rashid Husain Syed

Toronto-based Rashid Husain Syed is a respected energy and political analyst. The Middle East is his area of focus. As well as writing for major local and global newspapers, Rashid is also a regular speaker at major international conferences. He has provided his perspective on global energy issues to the Department of Energy in Washington and the International Energy Agency in Paris.

Courtesy of Troy Media

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WTI Extends Gains After Unexpected Crude Draw

WTI Extends Gains After Unexpected Crude Draw

Oil prices are higher today following relatively positive news from China (easing some of its…

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WTI Extends Gains After Unexpected Crude Draw

Oil prices are higher today following relatively positive news from China (easing some of its COVID quarantine restrictions), Macron-inspired doubts over the ability of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to significantly boost output, and unrest in Ecuador and Libya helped lift prices.

“We’re in the crunch period, it’s hard to see any meaningful price relief for crude,” said John Kilduff.

There’s a lot of strength with China relaxing its Covid restrictions and starting its independent refiners, “we’re going to have another chunk of demand for crude oil,” as China relaxes its Covid-19 restrictions.

With no EIA data released last week due to a "systems issue" (they have issued a statement confirming that the data - and the newest data - will both be released tomorrow), the only guidance we have for now on the past week's inventory changes is from API...

API (last week)

  • Crude +5.607mm

  • Cushing -390k

  • Gasoline +1.216mm - first build since March

  • Distillates -1.656mm

API (this week)

  • Crude -3.799mm

  • Cushing -650k

  • Gasoline +2.852mm

  • Distillates +2.613mm

Crude stocks unexpectedly fell last week, almost erasing the major build from the week before (according to API). Gasoline stocks rose for the second straight week

Source: Bloomberg

WTI was hovering around $111.75 and pushed up to $112 after the unexpected crude draw...

Finally, we note that the tight supply situation in oil (especially European) is revealing itself in the WTI-Brent spread, grew to $6.19, the widest in almost three months.

“European demand will remain robust, especially as natural gas supplies run out, while the North American demand for crude is weakening,” said Ed Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda.

This is not good news for President Biden as prices are rising...

And his ratings are hitting record lows.

Tyler Durden Tue, 06/28/2022 - 16:37

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