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Highlights in Chemical Science

News from across RSC Publishing.

Nanobombs away!

04 May 2007

Korean scientists have developed a porous silicon nanobomb that heats up with near-infrared irradiation and could cause cancer cells in the body to explode. 

A bomb superimposed with the chemical symbol for Silicon
Porous silicon combined with near-infrared light is a cancer killer
Recent research into a new kind of photodynamic therapy has concentrated on using single-walled carbon nanotubes, combined with near-infrared light, to generate heat to kill cancer cells. Now, Chongmu Lee and colleagues from Inha University, Korea, have substituted the carbon nanotubes with a porous silicon nanomaterial, which they claim can generate as much heat as the carbon nanotubes, with the added bonus of producing much smaller amounts of reactive oxygen species. 

Cancer-killing reactive oxygen species (ROS), generated with traditional photodynamic therapy techniques, can cause a range of side effects in patients undergoing cancer treatment including sensitivity to light, blistered, red or swollen skin if exposed to bright light, feeling or being sick, a metallic taste in the mouth and soreness on swallowing. The ROS accumulated in human bodies might also react with biological molecules to accelerate aging, weaken immunity and eventually cause a number of degenerative diseases. 

Lee is hopeful that this work can be developed for cancer treatment, but he admits that there is still a long way to go. 'Although the preliminary results in this work show the feasibility of porous silicon as a new therapeutic agent, it is obvious that much work including teratoma tests and experiments on human bodies is necessary before cancer therapy based on porous silicon is realised,' he said.

Elinor Richards

Link to journal article

The properties of porous silicon as a therapeutic agent via the new photodynamic therapy
Chongmu Lee, Hojin Kim, Youngjoon Cho and Wan In Lee, J. Mater. Chem., 2007, 17, 2648
DOI: 10.1039/b700892a