PV against cancer

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Scientists at Michigan State University claim to have developed a PV technology than can be used to detect and kill cancer cells.

In a paper Modulating cellular cytotoxicity and phototoxicity of fluorescent organic salts through counterion pairing, published in Scientific Reports, the research team explained how light-activated fluorescent dyes based on PV technology can be used for disease diagnosis, image-guided surgery and site-specific personalized therapy.

The dyes are commonly known as “theranostics” as they can diagnose and treat tumors through photodynamic therapy, a process based on a photosensitizing agent responsible for producing oxygen which kills nearby cells.

The study aimed to address major issues related to the fluorescent dyes applied to cancer research, such as low brightness, high toxicity to cells, poor tissue penetration and unwanted side-effects, said the researchers.

Reducing dye toxicity

The biggest success achieved by the scientists was reducing dye toxicity by optoelectronically tuning the organic salt nanoparticles used. “The key was learning to control the electronics of their photoactive molecules independently from their optical properties, and then making the leap to apply this understanding in a new way to a seemingly unrelated field,” the researchers stated.

The team drew on research conducted previously at the same university into how to improve the performance of solar glass. Those findings allowed the scientists to discover how to increase the brightness and tissue penetration of the dyes. “This is achieved through cation-anion pairing of organic salts that can modulate the frontier molecular orbital without impacting the bandgap,” the researchers explained.

The scientists said further research is required to reduce dye toxicity even more and eliminate other side-effects but said the first tests conducted on breast, lung and skin cancer cells were “remarkably promising”.