Research Highlight

Goat blood as cancer drug carrier

doi:10.1038/nindia.2011.77 Published online 30 May 2011

Researchers have produced magnetic iron nanoparticles from the red blood cells in goat's blood. The nanoparticles could be useful for delivering drugs to target cancer cells or to help capture images of renegade cancer cells.

Magnetic iron nanoparticles have already shown their versatility for cellular imaging, cancer diagnosis and as MRI contrast agents. However, such nanoparticles are produced from inorganic materials through processes that yield unwanted chemical by-products.

To find an eco-friendly alternative, the researchers produced iron nanoparticles (INPs) from goat red blood cells. They dissolved the nanoparticles in a solution containing chitosan and gelatine (CG) to provide a biocompatible coating. The CG coating also endowed the nanoparticles with the ability to ferry drugs.

Magnetic properties are essential for biomedical applications. To study the magnetic properties of their CG-coated INPs, the researchers exposed the nanoparticles to external magnetic fields at room temperature. The nanobiocomposite exhibited both ferromagnetic and super-paramagnetic properties.

Sophisticated imaging techniques showed that the nanobiocomposites were spherical, with sizes in the range of 80–300 nm. Studies with agarose gel revealed the nanoparticles' potential to be used as MRI contrast agents for capturing high-resolution images of cancer cells.

The magnetic properties of the CG-coated INPs demonstrate their suitability as magnetic carriers for targeted drug delivery to cancer cells through the application of strong external magnetic fields. Given their super-paramagnetic properties, these INPs could trigger micrometre-sized mammalian cells to engulf nanoparticles loaded with chemotherapeutic agents and specific antibodies.

"These nanobiocomposites could be used as substitutes for commercially available MRI contrast agents, particularly when comparing their toxicity, biocompatibility and economic benefits," says lead researcher T. P. Sastry.

The authors of this work are from: St Joseph's College of Engineering, Sholinganallur, Gemini Scans, St Isabel Hospital, Mylapore, Department of Gastroenterology, Madras Medical College, and Bio-products Lab, Central Leather Research Institute, Adyar, Chennai, India.


  1. Chamundeeswari, M. et al. Preparation and characterization of nanobiocomposites containing iron nanoparticles prepared from blood and coated with chitosan and gelatin. Mater. Res. Bull. 46, 901-904 (2011)  | Article