Graphene, a single atom thick material for which a Nobel Prize was awarded, has been hailed as a substance that will change our future. Yet, practical applications for its use in electronics, sensing, and other industries have been slow to materialize. Instead, we may see its most beneficial uses first come to medicine as a team from North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and China Pharmaceutical University have demonstrated graphene’s ability to ferry drugs to cancer sites.
The team bound doxorubicin and a membrane-associated cytokine (tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand, TRAIL) to tiny sheets of graphene, either directly or by using chains of peptides. When injected into laboratory mice with human lung cancer tumors, the graphene compound sticks to cancer cells thanks to the newly discovered attractive properties of the TRAIL protein. The cancer cells in turn snap off TRAIL proteins from the graphene and swallow up the graphene sheets with the doxorubicin still attached. This way the doxorubicin can attack the nucleus of the diseased cells, where it is most effective, while TRAIL works on the membrane, its preferred target.
Study in Advanced Materials: Furin-Mediated Sequential Delivery of Anticancer Cytokine and Small-Molecule Drug Shuttled by Graphene