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Dec 4, 2020

Golden tubes to help tackle asbestos-related cancers.


A study published at the end of October 2020 in the scientific journal Small show that gold nanotubes which are hollow cylinders one thousandth the width of a human hair, could be used to treat mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a malignant form of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibres. Over 2,600 people in the UK alone are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. Whilst the use of asbestos may be outlawed in the UK now, it has the world’s highest levels of mesothelioma due to vast amounts of asbestos being imported in the post-war years. Unfortunately mesothelioma is not on its way out. The global usage of asbestos remains high which means mesothelioma will become a global problem.

The study was a collaboration between scientists at the University of Leeds and University of Cambridge. The researchers were able to demonstrate how, once inside the cancer cells, these nanotubes are able to absorb light which causes them to heat up and kill the cancerous cells.

The next stage of the research is to load these nanotubes with medicines for enhanced therapies but mesothelioma is difficult to treat. The prognosis period can be anything from a matter of weeks to up to three years therefore time for treatment is of the essence and there is a great need for new and effective treatments.

The researchers have developed the nanotubes with physical properties which are ‘tunable’ which means they can tailor the wall thickness, microstructure, composition, and ability to absorb particular wavelengths of light. In the experimental stages the researches added the nanotubes to mesothelioma cells cultured in the lab and found that they were absorbed by the cells. When the mesothelioma cells were targeted with a laser, the nanotubes absorbed the light then heated up and killed the mesothelioma cell. The mesothelioma cells eat the nanotubes so when a laser light is shone on them it is able to penetrate deep into the cancerous tissue and not cause damage to the surrounding tissue. This method could be used for localised cancer cell killing.

The nanotubes that have been developed and used are made in a two-step process. First, solid silver nanorods are created to the desired diameter and then gold is deposited onto the surface of the silver. As the gold builds-up the silver dissolves from the inside to leave a hollow nanotube. These nanotubes can be manufactured at room temperature which allows wide spread manufacturing more achievable.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with an asbestos related illness or believes they have been exposed to asbestos please contact us on 0800 294 3065 without delay to ask has we can be of assistance.

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