Research Highlight

Fluorescent nanoprobes for imaging, killing cancer cells

doi:10.1038/nindia.2015.95 Published online 23 July 2015

Researchers have synthesized silica-coated fluorescent magnetic nanoparticles that can kill cervical cancer cells through heat generated by a magnetic field1. These nanoparticles could also be used as contrast agents in magnetic resonance imaging, making them potentially useful for diagnosing cancer.

The researchers synthesized manganese ferrite nanoparticles and coated them with a double layer of silica. They then attached an organic fluorescent dye to the inner silica layer, while leaving the outer layer dye free. These nanoparticles exhibited very good colloidal dispersion in water and superparamagnetic properties.

To explore the potential of the nanoparticles as a contrast agent, the scientists dispersed cancer cells treated with the nanoparticles in agarose gel under a magnetic resonance imaging scanner. They found that the treated cancer cells generated a stronger signal than untreated ones. When incubated with the cancer cells, the nanoparticles produced uniformly dispersed red granulated particles inside the cancer cells.

The nanoparticles were not toxic to the cancer cells, but when exposed to a current-induced magnetic field, the nanoparticles generated heat that killed the cancer cells through apoptosis, a process that triggers controlled cell death. “These magnetic nanoparticles would be a useful agent for developing diagnostic imaging techniques and thermal therapy for cancers,” says Dhirendra Bahadur, one of the researchers.

The authors of this work are from: Department of Chemical Engineering and Department of Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India and Department of Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering and Department of Biological Systems Engineering, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA.


1. Kumar, S. et al. Theranostic fluorescent silica encapsulated magnetic nanoassemblies for in vitro MRI imaging and hyperthermia. RSC Adv. 5, 53180–53188 (2015)