Graphene, a lattice of carbon only one atom thick, is a remarkable material that’s set to revolutionize all sorts of industries thanks to its novel properties and potential to miniaturize already existing technologies. Because of its unusual physical and electrical characteristics, graphene is expected to play a major role in medicine, and the journal Neurosurgery put together a primer for getting acquainted with the new material.
In their article, “Technological Developments and Future Perspectives on Graphene-Based Metamaterials,” Tobias A. Mattei, MD and Azeem A. Rehman review the history of graphene, its unique properties, and how it is made. More interestingly for this audience, they dive into the potential that the material has for the future of neurosurgery, including graphene-based fluorescent intracranial vascular imaging and even quantum computing integrated inside implantable monitoring devices.
In the experimental setting, it has already been demonstrated that graphene is able to provide high-resolution, real-time imaging of the cellular environment. In a recent study, for example, it has been shown that an aptamer-carboxyfluorescein/GO nanosheet can be successfully used for intracellular monitoring and in situ molecular probing of specific clusters of living cells, such as tumors artificially implanted in mice. Following the same strategy, GO nanosheets have also been used as platforms for in vivo imaging of the intracranial vasculature by using multiphoton-induced luminescence. The investigations on the safety profile of contrast agents using GO for cellular MRI have demonstrated enhanced imaging quality with high stability and low cytotoxicity. Finally, recent studies have also shown that graphene-derived materials may be successfully used in photoacoustic imaging strategies that rely on the acoustic response to heat expansion following optical energy absorption.
Besides its diagnostic applications, graphene has also been investigated in many experimental therapeutic strategies in neuro-oncology. One important focus in current neuro-oncology research is the development of nanoparticles for effective drug targeting and gene therapy delivery. Because of their large surface area, as well as the possibility of conjugating different biomolecules upon their surface, graphene nanoparticles have been considered a very promising scaffold that allows conjugation with several pharmacologically active molecules such as drugs, monoclonal antibodies, as well as proteins, carbohydrates, polymers, DNAs, and small-interfering RNAs.