Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How to produce fluorescent nanoparticles for medical applications in a nuclear reactor

09.11.2018

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


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.

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!
Further information:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-06789-8

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A new molecular player involved in T cell activation
07.12.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

nachricht News About a Plant Hormone
07.12.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers develop method to transfer entire 2D circuits to any smooth surface

What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.

Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...

Im Focus: Three components on one chip

Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.

Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...

Im Focus: Substitute for rare earth metal oxides

New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals

Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.

Im Focus: A bit of a stretch... material that thickens as it's pulled

Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.

Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...

Im Focus: The force of the vacuum

Scientists from the Theory Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) in Hamburg have shown through theoretical calculations and computer simulations that the force between electrons and lattice distortions in an atomically thin two-dimensional superconductor can be controlled with virtual photons. This could aid the development of new superconductors for energy-saving devices and many other technical applications.

The vacuum is not empty. It may sound like magic to laypeople but it has occupied physicists since the birth of quantum mechanics.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

Expert Panel on the Future of HPC in Engineering

03.12.2018 | Event News

Inaugural "Virtual World Tour" scheduled for december

28.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new molecular player involved in T cell activation

07.12.2018 | Life Sciences

High-temperature electronics? That's hot

07.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

Supercomputers without waste heat

07.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>