Certain researchers have modified polymers which are electrically conductive and are commonly used in solar energy applications; polymeric nanoparticles to develop heat can kill certain cancer cells. When nanoparticles are exposed to infrared light, heat generated can be used to kill cells of colorectal cancer.
The research and development, led by Nicole H. Levi-Polyachenko, Professor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Baptist Medical Center of Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA, has been carried out in collaboration with specialists from the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials, University Wake Forest.
The results of this study show that when exposed to colorectal cancer cells, incubated in the presence of polymer nanoparticles, five minutes of infrared light, the treatment to kill 95 percent of the cells.
The research team has also proven to be subject to the polymeric nanoparticles to repeated heating and cooling cycles without affecting its heating capacity. This provides advantages over metal nanoparticles, which may melt during the photothermal treatment, leading to decrease the heating efficiency. This also makes it possible to apply further treatments against malignant cells that resist attack and resulting first killed by the heat released in it.
A problem of other electrical conducting polymers has recently been explored for photothermal therapy is that these other polymers absorb light in a broad band infrared. In contrast, nanoparticles designed by the team of Levi-Polyachenko and Christopher M. MacNeill, absorb light in a very narrow band of infrared.
In addition, new polymeric nanoparticles are organic and tests so far have shown no evidence of toxicity in them, which alleviates the concerns raised initially about the potentially harmful effects of nanoparticles that may remain in the body after a treatment.
Although, as Levi-Polyachenko warns, more research is needed before these nanoparticles can be used in medical treatments with due confidence in their safety, preliminary results are very promising.
Moreover, it is increasingly evident that the field of electrical conducting polymers provides many opportunities for the development of safe and organic nanoparticles designed to locally generate heat in a tissue.