A team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru has discovered that nanomotors can help in early detection of cancer cells. The researchers used a 3-D model of a tumour and magnetically-driven nanomotors for the study, ‘Nanomotors Sense Local Physiochemical Heterogeneities in Tumour Microenvironments’.
Debayan Dasgupta, co-first author of the study and Ph.D. student at Centre for Nano Science and Engineering (CeNSE), said, “We tried driving the nanomotors toward cancer cells in a tumour model and observed them getting stuck to the matrix near cancer cells, but this was not observed near normal cells.”
The team found that the nanomotors got stuck because cancer cells coat their surrounding matrix with negatively charged sugars known as sialic acids.
“We searched for appropriate molecules within the vicinity of breast cancer cells and found specifically charged sugars known as 2,3-linked sialic acids. Normal breast cells show no such properties in the matrix close to them,” Ramray Bhat, Assistant Professor at the IISc Department of Molecular Reproduction, Development and Genetics (MRDG) told Indianexpress.com.
The study has also led the team to study how cancer cells change their environment within the organ in which they develop, in this case the breast.
“These results enrich our understanding about the anatomy of tumors as well as help us devise strategies to localize and attack tiny tumor populations,” Bhat added.
According to the World Health Organisation, breast cancer is the most frequent form of cancer among women, impacting 2.1 million women per year. “This also causes the greatest number of cancer-related deaths among women. In 2018, it is estimated that 627,000 women died from breast cancer – that is approximately 15% of all cancer deaths among women,” a report by WHO read. Early detection greatly improves chances of survival.
Bhat said the study will be carried out on animals next.
While Dasgupta and Dharma Pally (Department of Molecular Reproduction, Development and Genetics) are the first authors of the study, the other researchers who worked in the team are Ambarish Ghosh, Associate Professor at CeNSE, Deepak Kumar Saini from the Centre for Biosystems Science and Engineering and Dr Bhat at the IISc.
The study also got published in Angewandte Chemie, a weekly peer-reviewed scientific journal of the German Chemical Society.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines