Carbon Nanodots: The New Theranostic Agents for Cancer Synthesized by IIT Roorkee Research Team

Friday, 09 November 2018, 06:16 Hrs
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IIT Roorkee researchPost studying multiple types of nanomaterials, Dr. P. Gopinath and his ace team from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee have developed ‘carbon nanodots’– fluorescent carbon-based nanomaterials (10-9 metres) that can be deployed as ‘theranostic’ (therapeutic+diagnostic) agents for cancer. These unique facets of nanodots is due to their integral characteristics of being biocompatible wherein they can be rapidly excreted from the body and portray low toxicity while generating reliable optical signal. After certain chemical modifications, these nanodots can also be utilized as multimodal probes and therapeutic conjugates.

This magnificent work of Dr. Gopinath, supported by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) was recently published in the international journal – Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces. During the research, he and his team have produced carbon nanodots by heating the leaves of Catharanthus roseus or rosy periwinkle and Vincarosea in a hydrothermal reaction. While the embryonic fibroblast cells of a mouse were incubated among the carbon nanodot suspensions in a few hours, these cells displayed fluorescence indicating that the carbon dots had penetrated into the cells. Also, the nanodots also inhibited the formation of microtubule, the initiators of cell division which further destabilized the cytoskeletal framework of cells, provoked cytoplasmic constriction and eventually the death of the cell itself. In a nutshell, these nanodots manifested strong fluorescence suitable for diagnostic functions besides anti-cancer activity as mentioned in the above in vitro study.

Recounting the benefits of theranostic tools like carbon nanodots, Dr. Gopinath expresses, “Such events of real-time image guided anticancer therapy by a single system open a new paradigm in the field of anticancer therapy”. “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.

To further evaluate the potency of these carbon nanodots in oncological application across both diagnostics and treatment, Dr. Gopinath and his team are aspiring to start next stage animal studies. This expert team will concurrently research on the factors that would affect the performance and use of carbon nanodots in cancer theranostics entailing creating efficient means of delivery, processes for conservation of nanodot bioactivity and the enhancement of specificity towards the target cells. In fact, the prospective applications of carbon nanodot theranostic tools include identification of metastatic cancer cells, qualitative measurement of specific molecular targets and creation of guide targeted cancer therapy by propelling biodynamic markers towards target inhibition.

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