Researchers successfully tested gold nanotubes which can detect and destroy cancer cells

no doubt that doctors would prefer to treat cancer as soon as they spot it, and
it looks like nanotechnology might give them that chance. Researchers at the
University of Leeds have successfully tested gold nanotubes that are useful for
both imaging and destroying cancer cells. Since the tubes absorb near-infrared
light frequencies, which both generate heat and render human skin transparent,
you only need to zap them with lasers of varying brightness to achieve multiple
ends. You can use a relatively low brightness to reveal tumors, while high
brightness will heat the tubes enough to kill nearby tumorous cells. The shape
also has room for drugs, so you can deliver medicine at the same time.

credit: Jing Claussen (iThera Medical, Germany)

made of gold can act as probes for high-res imaging, drug delivery vehicles and
agents for destroying cancer cells claim scientists in a new paper that tested
the nanoparticles in mice. A study published in the journal Advanced Functional
Materials, details the first successful demonstration of the bio medical use of
gold nanotubes in a mouse model of human cancer and could soon be heading for
clinical trials. 
recurrence rates of tumours after surgical removal remain a formidable
challenge in cancer therapy. Chemoor radiotherapy is often given following
surgery to prevent this, but these treatments cause serious side effects,” said
Sunjie Ye study lead author from the University of Leeds.

nanotubes ­ that is, gold nanoparticles with tubular structures that resemble
tiny drinking straws ­ have the potential to enhance the efficacy of these
conventional treatments by integrating diagnosis and therapy in one single
system.” The researchers say that a new technique to control the length of
nanotubes underpins the research. By controlling the length, the researchers
were able to produce gold nanotubes with the right dimensions to absorb a type
of light called `near infrared’.

tissue is transparent for certain frequencies of light ­ in the red infrared
region. This is why parts of your hand appear red when a torch is shone through
it,” said the study’s corresponding author Steve Evans. “When the gold
nanotubes travel through the body, if light of the right frequency is shone on
them they absorb the light. This light energy is converted to heat, rather like
the warmth generated by the Sun on skin. Using a pulsed laser beam, we were
able to rapidly raise the temperature in the vicinity of the nanotubes so that
it was high enough to destroy cancer cells.” In cell-based studies, by
adjusting the brightness of the laser pulse, the researchers say they were able
to control whether the gold nanotubes were in cancer-destruction mode, or ready
to image tumours.

order to see the gold nanotubes in the body, the researchers used a new type of
imaging technique called `multispectral optoacoustic tomography’ (MSOT) to
detect the gold nanotubes in mice, in which gold nanotubes had been injected
intravenously. It is the first biomedical application of gold nanotubes within
a living organism. It was also shown that gold nanotubes were excreted from the
body and therefore are unlikely to cause problems in terms of toxicity, an
important consideration when developing nanoparticles for clinical use.

is the first demonstration of the production, and use for imaging and cancer
therapy, of gold nanotubes that strongly absorb light within the `optical
window’ of biological tissue,” said study co-author James McLaughlan. “The
nanotubes can be tumour-targeted and have a central `hollow’ core that can be
loaded with a therapeutic payload. This combination of targeting and localized
release of a therapeutic agent could, in this age of personalized medicine, be
used to identify and treat cancer with minimal toxicity.” The use of gold
nanotubes in imaging and other biomedical applications is currently progressing
through trial stages towards early clinical studies.

University of Leeds


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