Quantum Dots and Cancer Therapy
A quantum dot is a nanocrystal made of semiconductor materials that are small enough to exhibit quantum mechanical properties. Specifically, its excitons are confined in all three spatial dimensions. The electronic properties of these materials are intermediate between those of bulk semiconductors and of discrete molecules.
Researchers have studied applications for quantum dots in transistors, solar cells, LEDs, and diode lasers. They have also investigated quantum dots as agents for medical imaging and as possible qubits in quantum computing. The first commercial release of a product utilizing quantum dots was the Sony XBR X900A series of flat panel televisions released in 2013.
Electronic characteristics of a quantum dot are closely related to its size and shape. For example, the band gap in a quantum dot which determines the frequency range of emitted light is inversely related to its size. In fluorescent dye applications the frequency of emitted light increases as the size of the quantum dot decreases. Consequently, the color of emitted light shifts from red to blue when the size of the quantum dot is made smaller. This allows the excitation and emission of quantum dots to be highly tunable. Since the size of a quantum dot may be set when it is made, its conductive properties may be carefully controlled. Quantum dot assemblies consisting of many different sizes, such as gradient multi-layer nanofilms, can be made to exhibit a range of desirable emission properties.
The new generations of quantum dots have far-reaching potential for the study of intracellular processes at the single-molecule level, high-resolution cellular imaging, long-term in vivo observation of cell trafficking, tumor targeting, and diagnostics.
First attempts have been made to use quantum dots for tumor targeting under in vivo conditions. There exist two basic targeting schemes: active targeting and passive targeting. In the case of active targeting, quantum dots are functionalized with tumor-specific binding sites to selectively bind to tumor cells. Passive targeting uses the enhanced permeation and retention of tumor cells for the delivery of quantum dot probes. Fast-growing tumor cells typically have more permeable membranes than healthy cells, allowing the leakage of small nanoparticles into the cell body. Moreover, tumor cells lack an effective lymphatic drainage system, which leads to subsequent nanoparticle-accumulation.
Another potential cutting-edge application of quantum dots is being researched, with quantum dots acting as the inorganic fluorophore for intra-operative detection of tumors using fluorescence spectroscopy.
Semiconductor quantum dots have also been employed for in vitro imaging of pre-labeled cells. The ability to image single-cell migration in real time is expected to be important to several research areas such as embryogenesis, cancer metastasis, stem cell therapeutics, and lymphocyte immunology.
When excited by high energy radiation, such as with a laser, gold nanoparticles emit a thermal field. This phenomena can be used as a form of hyperthermia therapy to destroy malignant cancers without damaging surrounding tissues. When combined with QDs in a hydrogel, this could facilitate real-time monitoring of the tumor treatment.
By injecting a body with these quantum dots, a doctor could see where a tumor or cancer cell was by finding the injected quantum dots, an easy process because of their fluorescence.
See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_dot
Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)