Carbon nanocapsules for radiotherapy against cancer
In depth - January 07, 2020

Carbon nanocapsules for radiotherapy against cancer

Nanomedicine is a branch of medicine where nanotechnology is applied to health science. One of its main tools is based on nanocapsules. Its main application is the conduction of biomedical studies, which need low radioactivity.

Radioactive nanoparticles

A more recent and very promising application involves using radioactive nanoparticles with very high radioactive doses, administered intravenously to eliminate tumors. This technique is safer than traditional radiotherapy and other treatments, as it is only applied to the affected tissue.

Carbon nanocapsules can administer high radioactive doses to tumorous cells without affecting the surrounding healthy tissue

An advanced nanotechnology study, with the participation of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), has developed carbon nanocapsules that become activated with radiation and help reduce the proliferation and growth of cancerous tumors. These nanocapsules are irradiated with neutrons to reach high levels of radioactivity that destroy the tumorous cells, thus reducing the growth and spreading of the tumors.

After experimenting with them on mice, it has been proven that nanocapsules reduce some tumors, prevent their spreading and reduce their growth rate. According to CSIC sources, more studies are necessary to calculate the optimal doses and side effects.

Water resistant carbon nanotubes

The nanocapsules are made of carbon nanotubes composed of water-resistant graphene sheets that prevent the leakage of radioactive atoms from the inside, affecting other areas in the body.

Carbon nanocapsule
Carbon nanocapsule with samarium atoms (Source: IAEA)

The atoms inside are from samarium chloride, a chemical element used in hospitals as a palliative treatment for bone metastases. These atoms are not radioactive, but once inside the nanocapsules they are irradiated with neutrons for their application.

This, the tubes can be filled and processed them in any lab without the need of radioactive sites, and without risking exposure to radioactivity. It also reduces waste generation. The capsules can be safely stored until they are used.

The atoms inside nanocapsules are only irradiated at the moment of their application and can be safely stored

The study

The study is part of the European project RADDEL (RADioactivity DELivery). It was conducted by an international team composed of CSIC researchers, the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB) and the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), as well as research centers from several European countries and the company Cis Bio International.

Source: CSIC

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