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How metal organic frameworks are used to deliver cancer drugs in the body

Metal ions and organic ligands are able to connect to form metallic organic frameworks on a nanoscale (Nano-MOFs) for cancer drug delivery. 


Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) are promising nanocarriers for the encapsulation of cancer drugs for drug delivery in the body. Cancer affects people globally with chemotherapy remaining the most frequent treatment approach. However, chemotherapy is non-specific, being cytotoxic to patients’ normal DNA cells causing severe side effects. Nanoscale Metal Organic Frameworks (Nano-MOFs) are highly effective for encapsulating cancer drugs for controlled drug delivery, acting as capsules that deliver cancer drugs to only tumorous environments. MOFs are composed of metal ions linked by organic ligands creating a permanent porous network. 

MOFs are able to form one-, two-, or three-dimensional structures building  a  coordination network with cross-links. When synthesized MOFs are crystalline compound and can sometimes be observed as a cubic structure when observed on a scanning electron microscope (SEM) image. 











In particular the novel zeolitic 2-methylimidazole framework (ZIF-8) MOF has received attention for drug delivery. ZIF-8 is composed of Zn2+ ions and 2-methylimidazole ligands, making a highly crystalline structure. ZIF-8 MOFs are able to deliver  cancer drugs like doxorubicin to tumorous environments as it possesses a pH-sensitive degradation property. ZIF-8’s framework will only degrade in pH 5.0-5.5 which is a cancerous pH environment, and will not degrade in normal human body pH 7.4 conditions. This increases therapeutic efficacy for the patients having less systemic side effects, an aspect that nanomedicine has been extensively researching. As chemotherapy will damage health DNA cells as well as cancer cells, MOFs will only target cancer cells. Additionally the ZIF-8 MOF has a high porosity property due to the MOFs structures that is able to uptake doxorubicin successfully. Zn2+ is used in the medical field having a low toxicity and good biocompatibility. 

Overall MOFs and metal-organic molecules are important for the advancement of nanotechnology and nanomedicine. MOFs are highly beneficial for cancer research being a less toxic treatment method for patients. ZIF-8 MOFs are a way forward for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies that research treatments that are more tolerable for patients. Such research shows the diversity of chemistry as the uses of metals and organic molecules are able to expand to medicine.

Written by Alice Davey

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