Nanodiamonds: a cancer patient’s best friend?

201306047919620(Nanowerk News) Diamonds are sometimes considered as a  girl’s best friend. Now, this expression is about to have a new meaning. Indeed,  nanometric scale diamond particles could offer a new way to detect cancer far  earlier than previously thought. This is precisely the objective of a research project  called Dinamo, funded by the EU. Specifically, it aims to develop a  non-invasive nanotechnology sensing platform for real-time monitoring of  biomolecular processes in living cancer cells.
To do so, they developed a new technique, based on the use of  fluorescent nanodiamond particles (NDPs). “We demonstrated that the specific  combination of NDP-properties make them a highly suitable material for the  construction of probes capable of sensing biomolecules ranging from proteins to  DNA,” says team coordinator Milos Nesladek, who is also principle scientist at  the Institute for Material Research, Imec, based in Leuven, Belgium, “such  probes could be used to study molecular processes in cells at nanoscale.”
The trouble is that previous solutions did not allow monitoring  processes within living cells for any extended period of time. “Our key  challenge was to replace fluorescent bimolecular dyes that are currently used as  luminescence markers in cancer cell research,” explains Nesladek.
NDPs present several advantages. They are highly biocompatible.  They can remain for prolonged periods inside cells without influencing any  cellular mechanisms. Furthermore, they can be engineered to obtain a range of  optic, magnetic and surface properties. “The small size of NDPs enables them to  penetrate individual cell membranes in a non-invasive way, which causes no  damage to the cell and without any disruption of normal cellular functions,”  Nesladek tells CommNet. “The luminescence and the magnetic properties change  depending on the NDP’s interaction with the cellular environment,” he adds.
The surface properties of NDPs are such that it is possible to  attach specific biomolecules to them, such as primary DNA molecules. Delivered  precisely to the target cell, these biomolecules can measure, monitor or alter  biological components within the cell. The NDPs can thus become not only a tool  to monitor and detect pre-cancerous changes, but also to rectify them. Further  developments are going on in subsequent EU-projects such as DIAMANT.
Some experts welcome this approach. “Development of new drug  delivery carriers is crucial for treatment of numerous deceases, including  cancer,” comments Fedor Jelezko, director of the Institute of Quantum Optics at  Ulm University in Germany. “The novelty of approach in [the project] is the use  of innovative material to transport drugs,” he tells CommNet. Nanodiamond  provides unique opportunities for drug carrier design since they can be imaged  optically using fluorescence microscopy technique. “This allows monitoring of  drug delivery and release of drugs in the cells with unprecedented details,” he  adds. This monitoring has already been demonstrated (“Nanodiamond as a Vector for siRNA Delivery to Ewing Sarcoma  Cells”) by teams of the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Cachan and Gustave  Roussy Cancer Institute in Paris, France.
Other experts are more cautious. “Although there have been  numerous convincing experiments showing that nanodiamonds can carry active  anti-cancer drugs in culture cells and even in mice, it is very unlikely that it  will be ever used in humans, mostly because diamond is so inert that it cannot  be degraded and therefore cannot be easily eliminated by the body”, comments  François Treussart, physics professor at the ENS.
However, he seems a bright future for the technology. “Far  beyond the [project] goals, nanodiamond future in medical applications is more  as a diagnostic device in personal medicine or as a monitoring tool for example  to track stem cell engraftment in regenerative medicine, as recently  demonstrated (“Tracking the engraftment and regenerative  capabilities of transplanted lung stem cells using fluorescent  nanodiamonds”) by the biomedical applications of fluorescent ND-team at the  Institute of Atomic and Molecular Science, at the Academia Sinica inTaiwan,” he  concludes.
A NDP-probe, placed in a target cell, should be able to detect  and relay information about the processes taking place in this cell. “The Dinamo  project has been finished, but the partners still are collaborating,” Nesladek  tells. “The University of Stuttgart in Germany is developing a NDP-probe.  “Dinamo has focused on the context of breast cancer and colorectal cancer, but  there is no reason why the technique could not be applied to a wide range of  other cancers,” he tells CommNet. He concludes that another future aim is to  explore the possibility of using NDP probes to detect cancer stem cells.
Source: By Koen Mortelmans, Youris

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