Editorial Feature

Quantum Dot Technology in Cancer Treatment

Quantum dot technology

Image Credit: Tayfun Ruzgar/Shutterstock.com

Quantum dots (QDs) are one of the most important tools in nanomedicine because they have many medical applications. A collaborative effort between the Swansea University and colleagues from two Indian universities has found that new nanoparticles that are derived from tea leaves inhibit the growth of lung cancer cells. The new research has shown that quantum dots destroy up to 80% of lung cancer cells.

The quantum dots are approximately less than 10 nanometers in length. For comparison, a human hair is 40,000 nanometers thick. These particles are already used in health care for a variety of applications including solar cells, tumor imaging, and cancer treatment.

Presently, the quantum dots are made chemically, however, this is expensive and has an unwanted toxic side effect. Therefore, the research team at Swansea University has been trying to find an alternative method of creating quantum dots from a non-toxic source, such as tea leaves.

Tea leaves comprise polyphenols, amino acids, vitamins, and antioxidants, as well as other compounds. In this case, the research team used the leaf extract with cadmium sulfate and sodium sulfide before allowing the mixture to incubate. This process produces quantum dots that can then be applied to lung cancer cells.

The results of this research can be found in “Applied Nano Materials” and show that the quantum dots created by using tea leaf extract destroys up to 80% of the cancer cells, having infiltrated the nanopores of the tumor. According to the research team, this result was surprising and is a new development in the field. In addition, this method of extracting quantum dots is simpler and cheaper than the present method.

The lead researcher on the project, Dr. Sudhagar Pitchaimuthu of Swansea University, also a Ser Cymru-II Rising Star Fellow has stated that;

“The research confirmed previous evidence that tea leaf extract can be a non-toxic alternative to making quantum dots using chemicals. The real surprise, however, was that the dots actively inhibited the growth of the lung cancer cells.  We hadn’t been expecting this. The CdS quantum dots derived from tea leaf extract showed exceptional fluorescence emission in cancer cell bioimaging compared to conventional CdS nanoparticles. Quantum dots are therefore a very promising avenue to explore for developing new cancer treatments. They also have other possible applications, for example in anti-microbial paint used in operating theatres, or in sun creams.”  

In addition to this, Dr. Pitchaimuthu would like to further research into the use of nanoparticles and has outlined the research plans.

“Building on this exciting discovery, the next step is to scale up our operation, hopefully with the help of other collaborators.   We want to investigate the role of tea leaf extract in cancer cell imaging and the interface between quantum dots and the cancer cell. We would like to set up a “quantum dot factory” which will allow us to explore more fully the ways in which they can be used.”


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