Under the leadership of Petr Cígler from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (IOCB Prague) and Martin Hrubý from the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry (IMC), both of which are part of the Czech Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers has developed a revolutionary method for the easy and inexpensive production of irradiated nanodiamonds and other nanomaterials suitable for use in highly sensitive diagnostics of diseases, including various types of cancer. Their article was recently published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
Diagnosing diseases and understanding the processes that take place within cells at the molecular level require sensitive and selective diagnostic instruments. Today, scientists can monitor magnetic and electric fields in cells at a resolution of several dozen nanometers and with remarkable sensitivity thanks to crystal defects in the particles of certain inorganic materials.
The nanocrystals must first be dispersed in molten boron oxide and then subjected to neutron irradiation in a nuclear reactor.
Credit: IOCB Prague
A nearly ideal material for these purposes is diamond. Compared with the diamonds used in jewelry, the ones intended for applications in diagnostics and nanomedicine - nanodiamonds - are approximately a million times smaller and are produced synthetically from graphite at high pressure and temperatures.
A pure nanodiamond, though, doesn't reveal much about its environment. First, its crystal lattice must be damaged under controlled conditions to create special defects, so-called nitrogen-vacancy centers, which enable optical imaging.
The damage is most commonly created by irradiating nanodiamonds with fast ions in particle accelerators. These accelerated ions are capable of knocking carbon atoms out of the crystal lattice of a nanodiamond, leaving behind holes known as vacancies, which at high temperatures then pair with nitrogen atoms present in the crystal as contaminants.
The newly formed nitrogen-vacancy centers are a source of fluorescence, which can then be observed. It's precisely this fluorescence that gives nanodiamonds immense potential for applications in medicine and technology.
A fundamental restriction to the use of these materials on a broader scale, however, is the great cost and poor efficiency of irradiating ions in an accelerator, which prevents the generation of this exceptionally valuable material in larger quantities.
The team of scientists from several research centers headed by Petr Cígler and Martin Hrubý has recently published an article in the journal Nature Communications describing an entirely new method of irradiating nanocrystals. In place of costly and time-consuming irradiation in an accelerator, the scientists exploited irradiation in a nuclear reactor, which is much faster and far less expensive.
But it wasn't quite that simple. The scientists had to employ a trick - in the reactor, neutron irradiation splits boron atoms into very light and fast ions of helium and lithium. The nanocrystals must first be dispersed in molten boron oxide and then subjected to neutron irradiation in a nuclear reactor.
Neutron capture by boron nuclei produces a dense shower of helium and lithium ions, which have the same effect within the nanocrystals as the ions produced in an accelerator: the controlled creation of crystal defects.
The high density of this particle shower and the use of a reactor to irradiate a much larger quantity of material mean that it is easier and far more affordable to produce dozens of grams of rare nanomaterial at once, which is approximately one thousand times more than scientists have thus far been able to obtain through comparable irradiation in accelerators.
The method has proven successful not only in the creation of defects in the lattice of nanodiamonds but of another nanomaterial as well - silicon carbide. For this reason, scientists hypothesize that the method could find universal application in the large-scale production of nanoparticles with defined defects.
The new method utilizes the principle applied in boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT), in which patients are administered a boron compound. Once the compound has collected in the tumor, the patient receives radiation therapy with neutrons, which split the boron nuclei into ions of helium and lithium.
These then destroy the tumor cells that the boron has collected in. This principle taken from experimental cancer treatment thus has opened the door to the efficient production of nanomaterials with exceptional potential for applications in, among other areas, cancer diagnostics.
Article: Jan Havlík, Vladimíra Petráková, Jan Kučka, Helena Raabová, Dalibor Pánek, Václav Št?pán, Zuzana Zlámalová Cílová, Philipp Reineck, Jan Štursa, Jan Kučera, Martin Hrubý a Petr Cígler: Extremely rapid isotropic irradiation of nanoparticles with ions generated in situ by a nuclear reaction. Nature Communications 2018, 9, 4467. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-06789-8.
The Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Czech Academy of Sciences / IOCB Prague is a leading internationally recognized scientific institution whose primary mission is the pursuit of basic research in chemical biology and medicinal chemistry, organic and materials chemistry, chemistry of natural substances, biochemistry and molecular biology, physical chemistry, theoretical chemistry, and analytical chemistry. An integral part of the IOCB Prague's mission is the implementation of the results of basic research in practice. Emphasis on interdisciplinary research gives rise to a wide range of applications in medicine, pharmacy, and other fields.
Dušan Brinzanik | EurekAlert!
Russian scientists show changes in the erythrocyte nanostructure under stress
22.02.2019 | Lobachevsky University
How the intestinal fungus Candida albicans shapes our immune system
22.02.2019 | Exzellenzcluster Präzisionsmedizin für chronische Entzündungserkrankungen
An international research team including astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has combined radio telescopes from five continents to prove the existence of a narrow stream of material, a so-called jet, emerging from the only gravitational wave event involving two neutron stars observed so far. With its high sensitivity and excellent performance, the 100-m radio telescope in Effelsberg played an important role in the observations.
In August 2017, two neutron stars were observed colliding, producing gravitational waves that were detected by the American LIGO and European Virgo detectors....
Up to now, OLEDs have been used exclusively as a novel lighting technology for use in luminaires and lamps. However, flexible organic technology can offer much more: as an active lighting surface, it can be combined with a wide variety of materials, not just to modify but to revolutionize the functionality and design of countless existing products. To exemplify this, the Fraunhofer FEP together with the company EMDE development of light GmbH will be presenting hybrid flexible OLEDs integrated into textile designs within the EU-funded project PI-SCALE for the first time at LOPEC (March 19-21, 2019 in Munich, Germany) as examples of some of the many possible applications.
The Fraunhofer FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, has long been involved in the development of...
For the first time, an international team of scientists based in Regensburg, Germany, has recorded the orbitals of single molecules in different charge states in a novel type of microscopy. The research findings are published under the title “Mapping orbital changes upon electron transfer with tunneling microscopy on insulators” in the prestigious journal “Nature”.
The building blocks of matter surrounding us are atoms and molecules. The properties of that matter, however, are often not set by these building blocks...
Scientists at the University of Konstanz identify fierce competition between the human immune system and bacterial pathogens
Cell biologists from the University of Konstanz shed light on a recent evolutionary process in the human immune system and publish their findings in the...
Laser physicists have taken snapshots of carbon molecules C₆₀ showing how they transform in intense infrared light
When carbon molecules C₆₀ are exposed to an intense infrared light, they change their ball-like structure to a more elongated version. This has now been...
11.02.2019 | Event News
30.01.2019 | Event News
16.01.2019 | Event News
22.02.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
22.02.2019 | Materials Sciences
22.02.2019 | Life Sciences