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IISc Develops Approach to Destroy Cancer Cells

Copper sulphide nanoparticles have previously received attention for their application in cancer diagnosis, while gold nanoparticles, which can be chemically modified to target cancer cells, have shown anti-cancer effect, the IISc said in a statement on Monday. In their latest study, the IISc research team combined these two into hybrid nanoparticles which were tested on lung cancer and cervical cancer cell lines.

“These particles have photothermal, oxidative stress, and photoacoustic properties,” Jaya Prakash, assistant professor at the Department of Instrumentation and Applied Physics (IAP), IISc, and one of the corresponding authors of the paper, said.

When light is shined on these hybrid nanoparticles, they absorb the light and generate heat, which can kill cancer cells. These nanoparticles also produce singlet oxygen atoms that are toxic to the cancer cells.

“We want both these mechanisms to kill the cancer cell,” Jaya Prakash explains.

The researchers said that the nanoparticles can also help diagnose specific types of cancer. Current methods such as standalone computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, require trained radiology professionals to decipher the images. The photoacoustic property of the nanoparticles allows them to absorb light and generate ultrasound waves, which can be used to detect cancer cells with high contrast once the particles reach them, the researcher explained.

The ultrasound waves generated from the particles allow for a more accurate image resolution as sound waves scatter less when they pass through tissues compared to light. Scans created from the generated ultrasound waves can also provide better clarity and can be used to measure the oxygen saturation in the tumour, boosting their detection. “You can integrate this with existing systems of detection or treatment,” said Ashok M Raichur, Professor at the Department of Materials Engineering, and another corresponding author.