Medical uses for quantum dots – tiny luminescent crystals – couldinclude image-guided surgery, light-activated therapies andsensitive diagnostic tests. A pioneering study to gauge the toxicity of quantum dots inprimates has found the tiny crystals to be safe over a one-yearperiod, a hopeful outcome for doctors and scientists seeking newways to battle diseases like cancer through nanomedicine. The research, which appears in Nature Nanotechnology online, is likely the first to test the safety of quantum dots inprimates. In the study, scientists found that four rhesus monkeys injectedwith cadmium-selenide quantum dots remained in normal health over90 days.
Blood and biochemical markers stayed in typical ranges,and major organs developed no abnormalities. The animals didn’tlose weight. Two monkeys observed for an additional year also showed no signs ofillness. Quantum dots are tiny luminescent crystals that glow brightly indifferent colors. Medical researchers are eyeing the crystals foruse in image-guided surgery, light-activated therapies andsensitive diagnostic tests. s.
Cadmium selenide quantum dots are amongthe most studied, with potential applications not only in medicine,but as components of solar cells, quantum computers, light-emittingdiodes and more. The new toxicity study – completed by the University at Buffalo,the Chinese PLA General Hospital, China’s ChangChun University ofScience and Technology, and Singapore’s Nanyang TechnologicalUniversity – begins to address the concern of health professionalswho worry that quantum dots may be dangerous to humans. The authors caution, however, that more research is needed todetermine the nanocrystals’ long-term effects in primates; most ofthe potentially toxic cadmium from the quantum dots stayed in theliver, spleen and kidneys of the animals studied over the 90-dayperiod. “This is the first study that uses primates as animal models for invivo studies with quantum dots,” said paper coauthor Paras Prasad,UB professor of chemistry and medicine, and executive director ofUB’s Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics (ILPB).
“Sofar, such toxicity studies have focused only on mice and rats, buthumans are very different from mice. More studies using animalmodels that are closer to humans are necessary.” The cadmium build-up, in particular, is a serious concern thatwarrants further investigation, said Ken-Tye Yong, a NanyangTechnological University assistant professor who began working withPrasad on the study as a postdoctoral researcher at UB. Because of that concern, the best in-vivo applications forcadmium-selenide quantum dots in medicine may be the ones that usethe crystals in a limited capacity, said Mark Swihart, a thirdcoauthor and a UB professor of chemical and biological engineering.Image-guided surgery, which could involve a single dose of quantumdots to identify a tumor or other target area, falls into thiscategory. Additional References Citations.
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