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IISc Scientists Develop Groundbreaking Hybrid Nanoparticles for Cancer Detection and Treatment

Cancer is a formidable adversary, claiming countless lives worldwide and demanding innovative approaches to early detection and treatment. Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru have risen to this challenge by pioneering a groundbreaking method that holds promise for both the detection and eradication of cancer cells, especially those that congregate to form solid tumour masses.

In their quest to combat cancer, the researchers ingeniously designed hybrid nanoparticles composed of gold and copper sulphide. These nanoparticles boast a multifaceted functionality, capable of both exterminating cancer cells through the application of heat and facilitating their identification through the use of sound waves. The outcomes of this pioneering research were documented in a study published in “ACS Applied Nano Materials.

The significance of early detection in the battle against cancer cannot be overstated. To this end, copper sulphide nanoparticles had previously garnered attention for their potential role in cancer diagnosis. Concurrently, gold nanoparticles have demonstrated their efficacy in combatting cancer due to their ability to be chemically tailored to target malignant cells. Recognizing the untapped potential of these nanoparticles, the IISc research team set out to amalgamate these two distinct elements into hybrid nanoparticles.

These hybrid nanoparticles possess a wide range of properties, including the ability to generate heat when exposed to light, which effectively targets and eradicates cancer cells, along with inducing oxidative stress and producing photoacoustic signals. Additionally, they generate singlet oxygen atoms, a toxic substance for cells, further enhancing their lethal impact on cancerous growths. The synergy of these mechanisms presents a formidable challenge to tumour cells.

Beyond their role in treatment, these nanoparticles hold promise for cancer diagnosis. Existing methods such as standalone CT and MRI scans necessitate the expertise of trained radiologists to interpret the images accurately. However, the unique photoacoustic property of these hybrid nanoparticles allows them to absorb light and generate ultrasound waves. This property empowers them to detect cancer cells with remarkable precision once they reach their target, offering high-contrast images that surpass traditional imaging techniques.

The ultrasound waves generated by these nanoparticles offer several advantages. They deliver enhanced image resolution since sound waves exhibit reduced scattering when traversing through tissues compared to light. These scans, produced through ultrasound waves, can also gauge the oxygen saturation levels within tumours, further enhancing their efficacy in cancer detection.

Moreover, these nanoparticles have the potential for seamless integration into existing detection and treatment systems. For instance, they can be activated to produce heat by shining light on them using an endoscope, a common tool for cancer screening.

An obstacle that previous nanoparticle research encountered was their large size, limiting their applications. However, the IISc team overcame this challenge by employing an innovative reduction technique to deposit minuscule gold seeds onto the surface of copper sulphide, resulting in hybrid nanoparticles measuring less than 8 nanometers. This diminutive size renders them capable of navigating tissues with ease, reaching tumours efficiently.

While the potential of these nanoparticles is profound, their safety and compatibility with the human body warrant extensive research and testing. Nonetheless, the researchers have already taken promising steps by conducting laboratory tests on lung cancer and cervical cancer cell lines. Their next phase involves transitioning these results into clinical development.

In a world where cancer’s toll remains substantial, the Indian Institute of Science’s scientists provide a glimmer of hope. Their pioneering method, utilizing hybrid nanoparticles, has the potential to transform cancer detection and treatment, potentially sparing numerous lives. As the global cancer burden surges, this cutting-edge research assumes growing importance in the battle against this formidable disease.

Watch: India’s Cancer Burden


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