• Science Saturday: Thinking small for big possibilities

graduate student Christina von Roemeling in the lab with her colleagues and research team

A Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences student combines immunology and nanotechnology to pursue treatments for brain cancer and stroke. 

Von Roemeling is participating in biomedical research on brain cancer and stroke as part of Mayo Clinic’s Cancer Nanotechnology and Tumor Immunology Laboratory. Christina von Roemeling is a graduate student. What she’s learning is research, and why she’s learning it is personal. Having lost one relative to a brain tumor and watched several others battle breast cancer, von Roemeling says she was eager to join the cancer research effort. Which she has, with gusto.

Nano refers to the size of the materials used, while technology speaks to the manipulation of those objects. Nanotechnology works with ─ surprise ─ nanoparticles which measure between 1 and 100 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in at least two dimensions. For comparison, a human hair is about 100,000 nanometers in diameter. These tiny objects are tasked with a big job: Usually, they carry treatment into hard-to-reach places, such as the brain.

But the Nanotechnology Lab, including von Roemeling, used nanoparticles in a new way. Their particles activated the immune system against breast cancer tumors in mice. This nanoparticle-as-medicine strategy caused most tumors to shrink, and, when re-exposed to tumor cells a month later, the treated mice seemed resistant to developing cancer.

“It’s an approach that had never been used before,” von Roemeling says. “If this truly works in humans, it could change the way we treat patients. It’s very exciting.”  Read the rest of this article on Discovery's Edge.

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