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PALERMO (ITALPRESS) – The study entitled “Decagram-Scale Synthesis of Multicolor Carbon Nanodots: Self-Tracking Nanoheaters with Inherent and Selective Anticancer Properties”, conducted by a group of researchers from the Department of Biological, Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences (STEBICEF) of University of Palermo, was published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, a prestigious journal of the American Chemical Society.
The team, made up of Nicolò Mauro, Mara Andrea Utzeri, Gennara Cavallaro and Gaetano Giammona, in collaboration with Fabrizio Messina’s research group of the Department of Physics and Chemistry “E.
Segrè “UniPa – composed of Alice Sciortino, Marco Cannas and Gianpiero Buscarino – and Radian Popescu of the KIT-Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, has successfully developed a large-scale synthetic process of zero-dimensional carbon nanoparticles, called carbon nanodots, engineered on the surface in order to be visualized inside the human body after their administration and to induce intrinsic cytotoxic effects at the tumor level under constant monitoring.
The carbon nanodots obtained in this study emit visible light when excited from the outside and locally produce heat and reactive oxygen species (ROS) extremely toxic to cancer cells.
These nanomachines were designed to act as nano scalpels in precision medicine, for selective and non-invasive removal of fluorescence-guided breast cancer.
“Unlike the nanomedicines already studied – explain the research team – carbon nanodots are extremely small nanostructures (a few billionths of a meter) and can easily accumulate inside the tumor parenchyma, overcoming the physical barriers of the tumor microenvironment.
Inside the tumor cells they can therefore carry out their selective cytotoxic action and, concomitantly, allow the visualization of the tumor mass through the emission of visible light.
In fact, once inside the tumor cells, they are able to interfere with normal mitochondrial processes, triggering the formation of large quantities of ROS which, in turn, induce cell death.
On the other hand, a significant increase in ROS levels in healthy cells was not observed, thus suggesting a selective effect only for tumor cells, even those eventually escaped from the primary tumor and disseminated in premetastatic niches present in other organs.
The nanomedicines developed in this study carry out their cytotoxic action without necessarily releasing anticancer drugs, as conventional nanomedicines with important and unwanted side effects usually do, and are so small that they can be naturally eliminated via the kidneys following normal biodistribution processes.
What makes them special and unique is their intrinsic ability to trigger the cell death of only breast cancer cells, categorically ignoring healthy cells and resulting in a selective and efficient anticancer effect “.
“The study – continue the authors – also demonstrates that the developed nanotechnology induces a localized hyperproduction of ROS following exposure to an infrared laser commonly used in physiotherapy.
The operation is based on the ability of carbon nanodots engineered with nitrogen and sulfur atoms to absorb infrared light, known to penetrate deeply into human tissues, and to generate local heat that exacerbates cellular stress and ROS formation.
Therefore, by applying infrared pulses in correspondence with the tumor mass to be eradicated, identified by exploiting the fluorescence images generated by the carbon nandots present within it, it is possible to obtain selective ablation of the tumor under constant monitoring and image guidance.
Ultimately – the researchers conclude – the carbon nanodots developed in this study combine innumerable synergistic functions in a single nanomachine, such as: the ability to track and monitor tumor cells through fluorescence imaging, the intrinsic production of ROS within tumor cells and on-demand production of ROS in the tumor mass by image-guided optical stimulation.
These functions can act synergistically to efficiently and individually eradicate breast cancer and to overcome the limits of traditional pharmacological and nanomedicine techniques, such as off-target effects, inability to monitor therapeutic treatment, non-specific biodistribution and bioaccumulation “.
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