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Posted: Mar 19, 2013
Nanotechnology detects cancer progression
(Nanowerk News) Studying cellular processes that are implicated in cancer represents one of the main problems of contemporary cell biology and tumour therapy. European scientists are in the process of developing a novel sensing principle at the nano-scale level for monitoring cancer progression.
Cellular functions are dependent on the dynamics of various biomolecular processes. To be able to monitor these interactions with sufficient sub-microscopic resolution inside the living cells, sensitive monitoring techniques that provide real-time information are required.
To this end, the EU-funded Dinamo project is developing biocompatible fluorescent nanodiamond particles (fNDs) for imaging biomolecular interactions in cells. This novel approach has potential application in cancer research for detecting the intracellular processes leading to tumour development.
fNDs represent a unique system of up to 100 nanometre particles used for visualisation. Important properties include their capacity to be functionalised at the cell surface and act as carriers for targeted drug delivery.
The Dinamo consortium has developed these nanoparticles from cost-effective commercial high-pressure high-temperature (HPHT) diamond. Following optimisation of the fND production and fluorescence attachment processes, scientists have generated biocompatible particles that could be visualised by confocal microscopy.
Additionally, various chemistries have been explored for the functionalisation of fNDs. Of particular interest so far are fluorinated particles and those that could be used to detect DNA.
An important achievement of the project is the application of fNDs for monitoring cellular processes. This is achieved through fluorescent fNDs coupled to specific probes that interact with various biomolecules. This leads to fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), which is in turn exploited for intracellular detection.
A successful application of this method consisted of the targeting of fNDs to cancer breast cells. The Dinamo intracellular biosensors, operating at the cell or the molecular level, could attract a lot of interest with important applications in cancer diagnostics and therapy.