Nanotechnology — a breakthrough in the early diagnosis of cancer

Laboratory of Nano-Bioengineering in National Research Nuclear University MEPI, led by Professor Igor Nabiev, was set up following the competition megagrantov conducted the Russian Ministry to attract leading scientists in Russian.

Igor Rufailovich, a graduate of Moscow Engineering Physics Institute, during the perestroika years left to work in the United States, and later accepted an invitation to head the laboratory in the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne in France, where he made a successful career as a scientist from the head of department to the director of the European Technology Platform. The correspondent of "Vecherki" spoke with Professor Igor Nabiev about over what is now working in his laboratory MiFi.

— Igor Rufailovich, one of the directions of the laboratory — the use of fluorescent semiconductor nanocrystals in biology and medicine. You can tell more about it? 

— Together with the Institute of Microbiology and epidimeologii. Gamal and the Russian Cancer Research Center. Blokhin we are working on the creation and application a new generation of fluorescent labels, which are applied in the diagnosis of many diseases, particularly cancer.

Diagnostic technology known: the mice are "bad" cancer proteins in rodents begin to produce antibodies that are very well recognize the "bad" cells and are able to attach it to them. These antibodies are injected into the patient's blood sample or process their human biopsy tissue sections, and even if you are the target, which are attached to the antibodies — alas, it means that the "bad cells" already exists in the human body, but so far they do not show themselves. To see the antibody and the fact of their binding to the 'bad' cancer cells — they injected fluorescent labels. Who is traditionally used organic luminescent compound, fluorophores. But not so long ago as markers began to use semiconductor nanocrystals, which became known as "quantum dots."

— Diagnostics with nanocrystals more accurate than existing methods?

— Yes, of course. The fact that these quantum dots are so strong light (fluoresce), which is clearly visible as individual crystals under the light microscope. Moreover, the nanocrystals are not destroyed in the light. Thus, the organic label fluoresce when irradiated with light for about a second, and often a marker just does not have time to mark the cancer cell before it becomes invisible.

— Semiconductor labels more "tenacious"?

— Much! First, the nanocrystals glow for days even when intense light! This allows you to better identify and study the material under study, and even monitor the disease over time. Second, semiconductor markers brighter! They absorb light in a wide spectral range, and their ability to absorb organic matter exceeds a thousand times! This means that they are capable and emit much more light and are incomparably more vivid marks than their organic counterparts, which allows for earlier diagnosis and more clearly see the picture of the spread of the disease.

And most importantly, the transition to the new Nanotechnology has opened the way for creating tokens of the same material but with a spectrum of light, covering the whole range of rainbow colors, from purple to bright red. That is irradiated with a lamp or a laser, they emit multiple colors. This essential feature makes it possible to apply precise diagnosis by detecting (defining — OM) at the same time a huge number of parameters of the disease.

— It is clear that if we are talking about the "nano" crystals, this "nanotechnology" …

— The fact is that many misunderstand the word "nanotechnology" and think that everything is determined by the size of the particles. If you come down to a nanometer — here's the "nano". But it is not. The prefix "nano" can be used only when the decrease in size and is subject to change in its properties, such as conductivity changes, the color, mechanical and other parameters. This is the case with the semiconductor cadmium selenide, with whom we work. For example, a crystal of the material with a size of 4 nm produces amazingly bright purple glow, 5 nm — green, 5.5 nm — orange, and 6 nm — red. The whole problem was to learn how to grow crystals of homogeneous size and make them stable in biological fluids and tissues. We adjusted and patented the technology and is already in our laboratory, we can demonstrate the nanocrystals palette of nine colors!

— What does the "palette"?

— Various color and intensity of light crystals can be attached to different antibodies, and a combination of many possible combinations increases diagnostic many times. Thus, a system with 3 colors and 10 levels of intensity gives 999 options, and the use of 6 colors can get a million recognizable labels. Generally possible to implement such a number of combinations of markers that will mark each gene of the human genome! That is, one blood test can give you a report on the state of your health in many positions. This is the path that is now directed efforts around the world. Russia has also created large centers, which are brought to trial for the diagnosis. It is known that the disease is easier to prevent than to treat. And the same cancer in France, is a terrible disease. (!) It happens that the meeting after a break, the French simply say ill with cancer in much the same way we talk about the flu, and this is achieved through the ability to identify disease at its earliest stage.

— That is, we left too go to the mass production of new markers and equipment of our centers?

— Not so simple. Of course, work on nanocrystals are quite complex. And for the current success of the laboratory are years and years of work of scientists all over the world. So, for a long time could not achieve stability of crystals that immediately after manufacture and transfer into the aqueous phase would try to get together in a single lump (aggregation process). As a result, learned to cover several layers of zinc sulfide and organic molecules. The next phase of the work was to develop a technology attachment (conjugation) of proteins, peptides and nucleic acids. As a result, learned to sign nanocrystals in such an organic membrane that allowed them to connect to "recognize" biological molecules: antibodies, DNA, etc.

In short, rapid mapping of a large number of tumor markers, carried out in parallel, in the format of a clinical test — this is a new step toward personalized medicine of the future, and so an early diagnosis, which will allow for the therapeutic treatment of even the most dangerous diseases.

— We can say that nanotechnology is part of the medicine of the future and determine the direction of its development?

— Yes, of course. No wonder "nano-bio" recognized as a priority area in all industrialized countries. So, now being developed, for example, is another very important area of application of the new markers — the control and delivery of nano-microcontainers with medications in the right place. This optical control of localization in cells and tissues of the drugs will greatly facilitate the development of new generations of drugs.

Author: Anatoly Sidorov.

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