In collaboration with researchers from Assam’s Tezpur University, Russian scientists have developed a substance-based cobra venom and quantum dots that can glow and help surgeons see the boundaries of cancerous tumour.
Surgeons need to see the boundaries of the cancer because the more precisely the boundary is marked, the more effective the operation would be. The researchers synthesised the substance from snake venom alpha-neurotoxins and semiconductor fluorescent nanoparticles, Sputnik news agency reported.
Researchers from Russia’s National University of Science and Technology MISIS (NUST MISIS) created a unique hybrid compound (conjugate) consisting of two molecules with different characteristics — alpha-neurotoxins derived from Thai cobra venom and semiconductor fluorescent quantum nanoparticles of cadmium selenide, the so-called quantum dots.
These compounds can be used to create medical test systems that visualise some types of malignant neoplasm, simply known as cancer. The researchers from Assam analysed the cytotoxicity of alpha-neurotoxins, nerve growth factors, and their conjugates with fluorescent nanocrystals in various types of cells.
In the study, researchers used a unique characteristic of toxins — the selective interaction with cancer markers to visualise the tumour. The compound reaches the infected organ with the blood flow and marks the entire boundary of the tumour with fluorescent nanoparticles, which lights up when irradiated with UV light, which the human eye cannot see.
“We used specially devised methods to synthesize neurotoxin-quantum dot conjugates that maintain stability in human use. The nanoparticles of cadmium selenide are covered with a thin film of peptide (very short protein), which explains the high biocompatibility of conjugates and helps neutralize the toxicity of the quantum dots,” said Professor Yury Utkin, project director and an expert at the NUST MISIS Energy Efficiency Center.
“At the same time, these conjugates are much smaller than their analogues, which greatly simplifies the delivery of the substance into the organ,” Utkin pointed out. Delivering medicine to the affected organ is the top priority in case of cancer, because the bulk of cancer medicines are toxic.
The researchers believe that the substance may one day be also used for targeted therapy if medicine is added to the conjugate molecule.