Treating Disease exhibit

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This interactive component is about cutting-edge medical treatments that are being developed with nanotechnology. Gold Nanoshells, demonstrates how tiny nanoparticles of gold are being used to destroy cancerous tumors. Visitors inject gold nanoshell marbles into the bloodstream and watch as the gold nanoshells are absorbed by cancerous cells. The visitor then activates an infrared laser and watches as the laser heats up and kills the tumor cells while leaving the healthy tissues unharmed.

This exhibit was part of the Nanotechnology: What's the Big Deal? exhibition which toured the Arkansas Discovery Network beginning in 2010.

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Big Idea

Nanotechnology is changing the way we treat disease. Cutting-edge treatments will use materials that are as small (or even smaller!) as the tiniest parts of cells in the body. Researchers think that nanomedicine will work only on targeted cells, and will have fewer side effects on the rest of the body.

Learning Goals

When gold nanoshells are injected into the bloodstream, they travel through healthy blood vessels but easily slip through the leaks found in tumor blood vessels and collect in the tumors.

A laser shines light through skin and tissue (without damaging them!) and into each tumor, where the nanoshells absorb the energy and heat up.

The heat from the nanoshells destroys the tumor cells.

Nano Content Map
Nanoscience, nanotechnology, and nanoengineering lead to new knowledge and innovations that weren't possible before.


Year created

Developed for the NISE Network with funding from the National Science Foundation under Award Numbers 0532536 and 0940143. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.

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Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 United States (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US).
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Development Process

NISE Network products are developed through an iterative collaborative process that includes scientific review, peer review, and visitor evaluation in accordance with an inclusive audiences approach. Products are designed to be easily edited and adapted for different audiences under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. To learn more, visit our Development Process page.