We had harped about graphene’s potentiality in the field of flexible electronics. But this time around, scientists have found another conceivable use of graphene which is arguably more crucial – since it relates intrinsically to human health. The collaborative effort of researchers from University of Manchester and the University of Calabria have initiated a discovery that allows graphene oxide (GO) to directly mitigate generation of cancer stem cells (CSCs). In other words, the targeting done by graphene oxide can totally avoid the strenuous (and sometimes ineffective) chemotherapy – a process which is not able to deal with the recurring incidences of tumors and metatasis.
The very ‘immortal’ nature of a CSC is even more exacerbated due its ability to mutate into a tumor-sphere, or multiple tumor cells. Considering such high stakes at hand, the scientists decided to use graphene oxide for the treatment scope. Consequently, they tested six different types of cancer cells (including breast, lung and prostrate), along with unaffected regular skin cells – with the latter being chosen to gauge the toxicity (or lack thereof) of GO. After passing of 48 hours, the results were encouraging to say the least, with GO being able to assuage the capabilities of CSC – by stopping their proliferation via protective spheres.
The hypothesis is that GO obstructs signalling connections in the cells, thus ‘putting a lid’ on their proliferation capacity. And, the good news is – GO was also found to be safe when dealing with regular human cells. However, it must be noted that the process that can utilize the cancer-therapeutic nature of graphene is still in its nascent stage. As Dr. Aravind Vijayaraghavan of the National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester, made it clear –
Cancer stem cells differentiate to form a small mass of cells known as a tumor-sphere. We saw that the graphene oxide flakes prevented CSCs from forming these, and instead forced them to differentiate into non-cancer stem-cells.
Naturally, any new discovery such as this needs to undergo extensive study and trials before emerging as a therapeutic. We hope that these exciting results in laboratory cell cultures can translate into an equally effective real-life option for cancer therapy.
Source: University of Manchester