Working for a cure

Chilean scientist makes big leap in cancer research

Nanobiotechnology at the Universidad de Talca allows Dr. González Nilo to imagine a safer cure for cancer and earlier detection of breast cancer

lunes, 18 de abril de 2011  

Dr. Fernando Danilo González Nilo works on a small scale. A very small scale. “Imagine: a strand of hair is 10,000 nanometers wide. Bacteria are about 1,000 nanometers, a virus is between 20 and 300 nanometers, and DNA? DNA is 2.5 nanometers wide,” said Dr. González Nilo, as he explained his current research in nanobiotechnology.
But Dr. González Nilo hopes that his work will have big implications for cancer patients. With his team at the Universidad de Talca, he may have found a way to target cancerous cells with drugs, saving patients from whole-scale chemotherapy. He also predicts the technology will be capable of screening for breast cancer more safely and effectively than mammograms.
He said his advances have surprised some in the nanobiotechnology field, a cutting edge technology which is less than 30 years old and concentrated in Europe and the United States. “We have 400 interconnected computer processors, which is a big advance for a little city like Talca, and especially in a public university.”


Talca has benefited, he said, from partnerships with France, the United States, Spain, and especially from the ongoing partnership with Germany’s Fraunhofer research foundation.
Chilean science at the Talca laboratory gained recognition in 2006 when it compiled the first online database of structural nanobiology. The lab uses a high-powered electronic microscope, the first of its kind in Latin America, according to Dr. González Nilo. And the 400 interconnected computer processors allow the scientists to model complex molecular interactions after just a few days, a feat which would take a single computer four and a half years.
The next step, says Dr. González Nilo, is to apply for intellectual property rights, and move forward with testing and exploring other possible applications for the technology. Dr. González Nilo said the technology could also be useful for pain suppressants and anti-inflammatory drugs, but that he was focused for the time on cancer. “The fight against cancer is a titanic battle.”