Nanoengineers Fight Cancer by Simulating Submarine Volcanoes
The Engineer posted on May 12, 2017 |

A team of nanoengineers has developed anticancer nanomaterials by simulating the volcano-induced dynamic chemistry of the deep ocean. The novel method enables the fabrication of nanoclusters of zinc peroxide in an environmentally friendly manner, without the use of additional chemicals. The as-synthesised zinc peroxide nanoparticles can be used as a tool for cancer therapy and against other complicated diseases.

The researchers created these size-tailored nanoclusters by making use of the Leidenfrost effect, an event often observed in the kitchen while cooking. If you drop some water on a hot plate, droplets hover over the surface instead of making physical contact with it. In the Leidenfrost effect, a liquid close to an object much hotter than the liquid's boiling point produces an insulating vapour layer, preventing the liquid from boiling rapidly.

Leidenfrost effect makes water droplets on a hot plate hover over the surface instead of making physical contact with it. (Image courtesy of Aalto University/Mikko Raskinen.)
Leidenfrost effect makes water droplets on a hot plate hover over the surface instead of making physical contact with it. (Image courtesy of Aalto University/Mikko Raskinen.)
Near volcano gates deep in the ocean or under special conditions in the lab, the vapour layer can cover a large area without rising away from the surface, making the molecules in the liquid above behave in an exceptional way.

“The dynamic underwater chemistry seen in nature is inspiring for the next generation of eco-friendly nanochemistry. In this context, green synthesis of size-tailored nanoparticles in a facile and scalable manner via a dynamic process has not been introduced so far,” said Mady Elbahri, professor of nanochemistry and nanoengineering at Aalto University.

“We demonstrate the Leidenfrost dynamic chemistry occurring in an underwater overheated confined zone as a new tool for customised creation of nanoclusters of zinc peroxide. The hydrodynamic nature of the phenomenon ensures eruption of the nanoclusters towards a much colder region, giving rise to growth of monodisperse, size-tailored nanoclusters,” Elbahri continued.

“Our study can pave the way for sustainable synthesis of monodispersed particles,” explained Ramzy Abdelaziz, a postdoctoral researcher in Elbahri's group and coauthor of the study.

From a biomedical perspective, peroxides act as an oxygen supplier and thus can be exploited in treatment of a wide variety of diseases induced by anaerobic and even cancerous cells.

Anticancer nanomaterials erupt to the surface. Leidenfrost effect makes the molecules in the liquid above behave in an exceptional way. (Image courtesy of Aalto University.)
Anticancer nanomaterials erupt to the surface. Leidenfrost effect makes the molecules in the liquid above behave in an exceptional way. (Image courtesy of Aalto University.)
“Our nanoparticles have been investigated in terms of cytotoxic effect on suspension and adherent cells to prove their applicability as cancer nanotherapeutics,” said Duygu Disci-Zayed, a former research group member.

Having synthesised the monodispersed ZnO2 particles, the researchers performed a series of initial experiments to determine the impact of these nanoparticles on cancerous and normal, healthy cells. According to their study, ZnO2 nanoparticles have the potential to kill tumor cells by apoptotic and non-apoptotic mechanisms.

The study was published today in Nature Communications.

For another example of how engineers are advancing cancer treatment, find out how this Portable Smartphone Laboratory Detects Cancer.

Source: Aalto University

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