By Will Soutter
A multi-institute toxicity study on quantum dots in primates has discovered that these nanocrystals are safe for a period of one year.
This finding is encouraging for researchers and physicians looking for novel techniques to treat diseases such as cancer using nanomedicine. The organization involved in the study included the University at Buffalo, Nanyang Technological University, ChangChun University of Science and Technology, and the Chinese PLA General Hospital.
According to the researchers, it was the first in vivo study with quantum dots that utilized primates as animal models. The research was aimed at addressing the issues of health professionals on the safety of quantum dots in human beings. Quantum dots are luminescent nanocrystals that emit various colors.
During the research, the scientists injected cadmium-selenide quantum dots in four rhesus monkeys. What they discovered were these monkeys stayed healthy over 90 days, blood and biochemical markers remained in normal ranges, and no abnormalities were observed in important organs. Moreover, the monkeys maintained their weight. The researchers also tested two other monkeys for a period of an additional year and observed no signs of abnormalities.
Although the study findings are encouraging, the researchers are cautious and emphasized the need to conduct more research for identifying the long-term effects of quantum dots in primates as majority of the possibly toxic cadmium of quantum dots resided in kidneys, spleen, and liver of the monkeys for a period of 90 days.
Medical scientists intend to use the nanocrystals in sensitive diagnostic tests, light-activated therapies and image-guided surgery. Cadmium selenide quantum dots are the subject of most of the studies. Besides the medical applications, cadmium selenide quantum dots hold potential in LEDS, quantum computers, solar cells and much more.