Researchers from McGill University and Argonne National Laboratory have published a paper in Nanoscale discussing the potential use of quantum nanodots, or nano sized particles of semiconductor material, to produce reactive oxygen species for killing cancer cells using photodynamic therapy.
According to Nadeau [Jay Louise Nadeau, an Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at McGill –ed.] ‘some nanoparticles don’t make singlet oxygen but they do when they are connected to small molecules like [the neurotransmitter] dopamine. That opens up a whole other avenue for investigation,’ she says. Her team also found that the dopamine-conjugated quantum dots can be used to kill mammalian cells but only on irradiation with UV-to-blue light. This means the quantum dots are unlikely to be toxic in the body, where the light cannot penetrate, but could have an effect on skin, the researchers claim. They suggest that similar conjugated nanoparticles could potentially be used in photodynamic therapy for skin cancer treatment.
Juan Mareque-Rivas, an expert in fluorescent nanoparticles, from the University of Edinburgh, UK, says ‘this is a long overdue investigation. It is nice to see a study in which generation of different reactive oxygen species is demonstrated, quantified and rationalised, and linked to interactions with dopamine – it warns that biomolecules can enhance the phototoxicity of quantum dots.’