Research Highlight

Nanogels loaded with marine pigments kill colon cancer cells

doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.82 Published online 29 June 2018

Researchers have synthesised marine-pigment-loaded biocompatible nanogels that can kill human colon cancer cells, making them potentially useful for a novel therapy for colon cancer1.

Colon cancer is a deadly disease that affects both men and women. Consuming a diet rich in animal fat increases the risks of colon cancer. Existing chemotherapies are effective, but they kill normal, healthy cells along with cancer cells.

In search of a safe therapy, scientists from the CSIR-Central Food Technological Research Institute in Karnataka, India, and Kyoto University in Kyoto, Japan, prepared the nanogels using chitosan, a polymer isolated from the hard outer shell of crab, glycolipid derived from wheat germ oil and carotenoid fucoxanthin, a pigment from brown seaweed.

When the pigment-loaded nanogels were cultured with human colon cancer cells, the cells began to die. Analysis of the cell death process revealed that the nanogels increased a specific protein and enzymes that caused the cancer cells’ death through apoptosis, a process in which the cancer cells die in a controlled way.

DNA fragmentation, a sign of apoptosis, was clearly observed in the nanogel-treated cancer cells. Besides, nanogel treatment also suppressed the secretion of a protein that helps the cancer cells proliferate.

Since natural nutraceuticals are widely preferred for their efficiency in lowering cancer complications, fucoxanthin being a potentially beneficial nutraceutical carotenoid could be a promising anti-cancer agent.


1. Ravi, H. et al. Polymeric chitosan-glycolipid nanocarriers for an effective delivery of marine carotenoid fucoxanthin for induction of apoptosis in human colon cancer cells (Caco-2 cells). Mater. Sci. Eng. C. 91, 785-795 (2018)