Gold nanotubes could help treat asbestos cancer

Researchers at the University of Leeds and University of Cambridge demonstrated that tiny gold nanotubes could treat cancer caused by asbestos fibres.

In the study, the scientists showed that – when inside cancer cells – the nanotubes can absorb light, which causes them to heat up and kill the cells. The new research may pave the way towards new treatments, especially as mesothelioma is known to be a ‘hard-to-treat’ cancer.

The gold nanotubes are just one thousandth the width of a human hair and can be created at room temperature thanks to a process advanced by University of Leeds researchers. The process also means that the nanotube’s physical properties are “tunable”, so they can be created at the desired thickness and composition to absorb particular wavelengths of light.

Professor Stephen Evans, from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds, said: “Having control over the size and shape of the nanotubes allows us to tune them to absorb light where the tissue is transparent and will allow them to be used for both the imaging and treatment of cancers. 

“The next stage will be to load these nanotubes with medicines for enhanced therapies.”

The research has been published in the scientific journal Small. You can also read more about this story here.

Top image shows the nanotubes (coloured green) in a mesothelioma cell. Credit: Arsalan Azad