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Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is a hallmark effect triggered by effective anticancer drugs. Now, researchers in Korea have developed a biocompatible, fluorescent nanoparticle that could provide an early sign that apoptosis is occurring as a result of anticancer therapy. The results of their work, published in the journal Bioconjugate Chemistry, could provide a boost for both clinical oncology and cancer research.
The availability of a real-time assay of apoptosis would provide a critically useful tool for oncologists, who would then have the means to determine whether a given therapeutic approach was working soon after that therapy was started. Cancer drug development would also benefit from a real-time apoptosis assay if such an assay could be used to provide rapid and sensitive results in high-throughput drug screening experiments.
A research team headed by Dae Hong Jeong, Ph.D., Yoon-Sik Lee, Ph.D., and Myung-Haing Cho, D.V.M., Ph.D., Seoul National University, created their fluorescent surface enhanced Raman spectroscopic (F-SERS) nanodots to boost the optical signal generated by typical, biocompatible fluorescent dyes. The nanodots consist of silver nanoparticles embedded in a silica sphere. Attached to the silica core are fluorescent dye molecules and molecules known as Raman labels that enhance the electronic interactions between the silver nanoparticles and the dye molecules. The researchers also linked annexin-V, a molecule that binds specifically to a chemical that appears on cells undergoing apoptosis, to the silica-silver nanoparticle construct.
Toxicity tests showed that the silica-silver nanodots were not toxic to various human cells growing in culture. The investigators then added the nanodots to cells triggered to undergo apoptosis and were able to image those cells as they went through programmed cell death. Based on these results, the researchers prepared other nanodots containing antibodies that bind to other molecules involved in apoptosis. They then added these antibody-linked nanodots and the annexin-V-linked nanodots to cultured human lung cancer cells. The investigators were able to track the appearance of all three molecules simultaneously, which has been difficult to do using conventional cell staining techniques.
This work is detailed in the paper "Multiplex targeting, tracking, and imaging of apoptosis by fluorescent surface enhanced raman spectroscopic dots." An investigator from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign also participated in this study. An abstract of this paper is available through PubMed.
About National Cancer Institute
To help meet the goal of eliminating suffering and death due to cancer, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, is engaged in efforts to harness the power of nanotechnology to radically change the way we diagnose, treat and prevent cancer.
The NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer is a comprehensive, systematized initiative encompassing the public and private sectors, designed to accelerate the application of the best capabilities of nanotechnology to cancer.
Currently, scientists are limited in their ability to turn promising molecular discoveries into benefits for cancer patients. Nanotechnology can provide the technical power and tools that will enable those developing new diagnostics, therapeutics, and preventives to keep pace with today’s explosion in knowledge.
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