Unique Biomarker Lights Up When It Detects Tumour Cells, And Deliver Drugs

Novel 2-In-1 Biomarker And Drug Delivery System
(Image source)
Researchers have invented a unique biomarker with two exceptional functions. First, it lights up when it detects tumour cells to allow scientists to take a better look. And it can also release anti-cancer drugs at the same time to the specific cells. This new biomarker, which has immense potential for drug development, is made from a nanophosphor particle, ten thousand times smaller than a grain of sand. The breakthrough has resulted in two papers published in Small, one of the world's top scientific journals for material science and nanotechnology.
The use of near-infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye, is unique as most imaging techniques use ultraviolet light or visible light. Near-infrared light can penetrate 3 to 4 cm beyond the skin to deep tissue, much deeper than visible light. It also does not cause any damage to healthy cells, unlike ultraviolet or visible light.
Visible light also causes photo bleaching, which is the destruction of the fluorescence dye that reduces the amount of time doctors and scientists have to image a tissue sample. The new biomarker has effectively eliminated such key limitations which exist in existing biological markers.
Their new biomarker can also release anti-cancer drugs by creating a layer of coating loaded with drugs on the outside of the nanoparticle. The drugs are released when the biomarker lights up in response to the near-infrared light. The breakthrough will open up new doors in the various fields of nanomedicine, bioimaging and cancer therapeutics.
The new biomarker also has other advantages. It has twice the contrast of conventional dyes and is able to emit up to three different colours of light. This means that it allows for better differentiation between healthy cells and tumour cells.
Unlike other new biomarkers used for imaging such as quantum dots, the biomarker has also been shown to be non-toxic, staying in the body for up to two days before it is passed out harmlessly.
Moving forward, the team will be looking to load multiple layers of drugs into their biomarker. If successful, doctors will be able to release sequentially two or more drugs through the biomarker. This will benefit cancer patients as there will be fewer side effects due to the small doses administered and also higher efficacy as the biomarker has the ability to accurately target tumour cells.