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Lung cancer destroyed with tea leaf nanoparticles

A new study has shown that lung cancer cells can be destroyed using nanoparticles derived from tea leaves. These tiny particles, called “quantum dots,” are 400 times thinner than a human hair, and producing them from tea leaves is safe and non-toxic.
tea cup with leaves
Tea leaves may be key to stopping lung cancer from advancing.

More and more research has been focusing on the potential uses of nanoparticles for healthcare.

From “nanoprobes” used to spot micro tumors to drug-filled nanoparticles used to target and destroy tumor cells, nanotechnology appears particularly promising when it comes to targeting cancer.

For instance, a recent study demonstrated that endometrial cancer can be targeted much more effectively if anti-cancer drugs are loaded into nanoparticles and delivered straight to the tumors.

Another study that we reported on used a similar approach to destroy cancer stem cells. And now, researchers are turning to a type of nanoparticle called “quantum dots” for help in the fight against cancer.

Scientists led by researcher Sudhagar Pitchaimuthu — a Ser Cymru-II Rising Star Fellow at Swansea University’s College of Engineering in the United Kingdom — have created quantum dots from tea leaf extract and used them to stop lung cancer cells from growing.

The findings were published in the journal Applied Nano Materials.

Up to 80 percent of cancer cells destroyed

Quantum dots are under 10 nanometers in diameter. They are usually created chemically, and they have already been used in computers and TV screens.

However, as Pitchaimuthu and team explain, this chemical production process is often complicated and costly, and it can have a range of adverse toxic effects. So, the researchers wanted to explore a plant-based, non-toxic production alternative.

To do so, they mixed tea leaf extract with cadmium sulfate and sodium sulfide. After leaving the substances to incubate, quantum dots were formed.

Then, they applied the quantum dots to cancer cells. They found that the anti-cancer properties of the nanoparticles were comparable to those of the widely used chemotherapy drug cisplatin.

In fact, the study revealed that quantum dots infiltrated the nanopores of the cancer cells, destroying up to 80 percent of them.

Pitchaimuthu comments on the findings, saying, “Our research confirmed previous evidence that tea leaf extract can be a non-toxic alternative to making quantum dots using chemicals.”

The real surprise, however, was that the dots actively inhibited the growth of the lung cancer cells. We hadn’t been expecting this […] Quantum dots are therefore a very promising avenue to explore for developing new cancer treatments.”

Sudhagar Pitchaimuthu

He also shared some of his aims for future research, saying, “Building on this exciting discovery, the next step is to scale up our operation, hopefully with the help of other collaborators.”

“We want to investigate,” he continues, “the role of tea leaf extract in cancer cell imaging, and the interface between quantum dots and the cancer cell.”

Ultimately, the researchers would like to “set up a ‘quantum dot factory,'” which will enable them to fully explore the range of potential applications of quantum dots.

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