Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - CARBIO (Multi-functional carbon nanotubes for biomedical applications)

Nanotechnology has great potential to produce tiny devices smaller than a single cell that can be injected into the body to image tumours or even to seek out and kill cancer cells. In the CARBIO project we apply a broad multi-disciplinary approach ranging from basic research in chemistry, physics and biology to biophysical, biochemical and medical studies. We have focussed on the development of multi-functionalised carbon nanotubes that act as nanocontainers carrying drugs or imaging agents to target cells. These tiny nanodevices consist of shells of pure carbon which may be filled with drugs, metals or imaging agents. One of the key achievements of the project was to construct multifunctional nanotubes that can target cancer cells, deliver drugs to those cells or even act as antennae that absorb electromagnetic radiation and thereby deliver heat to destroy tumours from the inside.

Background Carbon nanotubes are mechanically and chemically stable hollow carbon structures which can be functionalised both exohedrally and by filling with a tailored functional material. The carbon shells protect the biological environment and the filling material from each other. Degradation of filling materials is avoided and their potential toxicity and adverse effects are suppressed so that the CNT provides a smart carrier system on the nanometer scale.

The CARBIO Network has:
Synthesised CNTs with tailored functionalities and uniform morphology.
Filled CNTs with tailored materials thereby forming packages in which the active content is encapsulated by a protecting carbon shell.
Modified CNTs in order to render them long-term stably dispersed in aqueous solution and compatible to actual biological systems.
Studied their uptake into and their fate within the single cell.
Showed their feasibility for AC magnetic heating for hyperthermia anticancer treatment.
Showed the feasibility for a contactless temperature control by virtue of NMR spectroscopy.
Provided data on CNT toxicity and on their interaction with the immune system.
Developed methods for drug-filling of CNT and for heat-induced drug-release of carbon nanostructures.
Demonstrated that CNTs are both taken up but then released by cultured cells.
Demonstrated that CNTs can be targeted to human cells.
Demonstrated that CNTs can deliver active content to cultured cells: drugs, DNA, siRNA, cytotoxic drugs that are capable of killing cancer cells.
Will generate ~100 scientific publications in international peer-reviewed journals, and a book (Carbon Nanotubes for Biomedical Applications, Springer 2010) summarising the achievements of the network.

The envisaged applications of carbon nanotubes for therapy and diagnosis apply their potential for a targeted nanocontainer. The project has elucidated the usage of CNT for previously known applications and has also shown their feasibility for novel applications not encountered before. A particularly high potential is found when multiple functionalities are combined, e.g., drug transport, imaging and local heat generation. Particular emphasis has been put on the interaction of CNT with actual biological environments thereby providing valuable information on the interactions of this novel nanomaterial with living systems.

The Network has developed a novel European research structure that has brought together young scientists from across the EU to work collaboratively towards the common aim of building safe and effective nanomedicine devices. The project has gained international visibility by providing training for scientists in leading European laboratories and has thereby become a paradigmatic example of training in experimental biomedical nanoscience. The Network's results allow better understanding and assessment of possible benefits and potential toxicological and environmental risks of nanomaterials which is a prerequisite for responsible application of nanotechnology. In this way, the Network not only promotes future research and technological applications but supports decision making and, eventually, responsible discussions on nanoscience in society.

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