Bubbles were a lot of fun to play with when I was younger, and though the years have passed, I still encounter many children who also find them fun to play with. Bubbles have a serious side to them though and thanks to the work of Rice University researchers, they may soon be saving lives from diseases including cancer. In this case though, it is not large soap bubbles, but tiny nanobubbles that can affect cells.
These nanobubbles are created by heating up plasmonic nanoparticles with lasers. Depending on the design of the nanoparticle, a different result can be had. A solid nanoparticle makes very small bubbles that can pierce a cell membrane, allowing chemicals to flow inside. Hollow nanoparticles however create much larger bubbles that will actually explode a cell. When the researchers tested this they did so in a single sample, with the nanoparticles contained in separate model cancer cells, so only one kind of particle was within a single cell.
This discovery should have some interesting effects on modern medicine and gene therapy, which can require cells be processed outside of the body, as it offers high efficiency while still being selective and fast. The researchers currently do have plans for building a prototype of this technology and testing it with human cells in the near future.