The dye in your blue jeans could soon be used to kill cancer cells, say scientists.
UK researchers are employing tiny gold "nanoparticles", 1/5000th the thickness of a human hair, to deliver the chemical compound directly into cancer cells, tearing them apart instantly. The common dye found in blue jeans and ballpoint pens is called phthalocyanine and is a light-activated, or photosensitive, agent with cell-destroying properties.
This has been known for at least 15 years but, until now, scientists have not been able to successfully deliver it into cells; hence there's no harm in wearing blue jeans. The University of East Anglia (UEA) team used the gold particles as "trojan horses". Their small size enables them to easily enter cells, and the phthalocyanine is taken up along with them.
When pulsed with laser light, the compound produces a highly reactive form of oxygen which causes the cancer cells to commit suicide. UEA's Dr David Russell explained: "Because this compound does not dissolve in water, it is difficult to get it into cells. But this 'fat soluble' property is precisely what makes it a great potential therapy. "We have shown using nanotechnology that we can get phthalocyanine into the cancer cells where it binds and, on activation, causes substantial cell death," he told the British Association's Science Festival.
News source: BBC News