Research Highlight

Latex proteins aid cancer death

doi:10.1038/nindia.2011.54 Published online 25 April 2011

New research has shown that copper nanoparticles modified with plant latex can kill lung cancer cells. This work may help in the development of biocompatible cancer therapy.

The synthesis of nanoparticles usually involves harmful chemicals, and even chitosan-modified nanoparticles can have toxic effects on biological cells.

However, synthesis using fungi, bacteria and plants requires tedious cell culture. To devise an eco-friendly way of making biocompatible nanoparticles, the researchers used the latex from leafy milk hedge (Euphorbia nivulia) to cap copper nanoparticles.

Spectroscopic studies revealed that the proteins present in the latex capped the copper nanoparticles. The latex-capped nanoparticles were spherical, with an average particle size of 5 15 nm. The researchers studied the efficacy of these nanoparticles by exposing them to cultured human lung cancer cells for 12 hours.

Fluorescent microscopy imaging showed that the nanoparticles were able to penetrate cancer cell membrane and increase the levels of reactive oxygen species such as hydrogen peroxide and superoxide radicals inside the cancer cells. This caused damage to the mitochondrial membrane, leading to mitochondrial dysfunction and eventually cell death.

"Biomolecules such as proteins in the latex keep the copper nanoparticles in a soluble form in the aqueous medium and thus protect them from oxidation," says lead researcher Sonal Thakore. The latex proteins also act as carriers for the delivery of nanoparticles to the target cells, she adds.

The authors of this work are from: Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, and Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara, Gujarat, India.


  1. Valodkar, M. et al. Biocompatible synthesis of peptide capped copper nanoparticles and their biological effect on tumor cells. Mater. Chem. Phys. doi: 10.1016/j.matchemphys.2011.02.039 (2011)