An Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee team has developed fluorescent carbon nanodots that can serve as theranostic -- a form of diagnostic testing employed for selecting targeted therapy -- agents for cancer. Dr. P. Gopinath and his team from the Institute have extracted these nanosized (10-9 metre) carbon materials from the leaves of the rosy periwinkle plant.
Their work, supported by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, has recently been published in the Journal 'Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces'.
The identification of cancer cells and their inhibition/destruction have been continuing challenges in the field of oncology and cancer drug research for many decades. In the past few years, nanotechnology has emerged as one of the most promising areas in cancer diagnostics and treatment and nanomaterials - materials having dimensions in the nanometre (10-9 m) range - are being increasingly studied as agents in molecular tumour imaging, molecular diagnosis and targeted therapy.
Of the many types of nanomaterials studied, carbon nanodots show considerable potential, said a statement from IIT Roorkee.
"Carbon nanodot" refers to fluorescent carbon-based nanomaterials. Carbon dots, also called carbon quantum dots, are fluorescent materials that are well-suited as both therapeutic and diagnostic agents for cancer because of two unique characteristics - they are biocompatible and can be rapidly excreted from the body and exhibit low toxicity while producing reliable optical signal, the statement said.
Dr. Gopinath's team has synthesised carbon nanodots by heating the leaves of Catharanthus roseus, commonly called rosy periwinkle and Vinca rosea, in a process called "hydrothermal reaction".
The nanodots were found to exhibit strong fluorescence, which makes them suited for diagnostic functions, while also mediating anti-cancer activity, as was seen from in vitro studies.
"Such events of real-time image guided anticancer therapy by a single system open a new paradigm in the field of anticancer therapy", says Dr. Gopinath on the benefits of these theranostic tools.
"With these nanomaterials, we can identify the cancer cells and track them by an imaging system simultaneously as the cells themselves are being eradicated in a precise 'surgical strike", he adds.
With these promising observations, Dr. Gopinath and his team are planning next stage animal studies for further evaluation of these nanomaterials in oncological applications, for both diagnostics and treatment.
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