Researchers suggest that gold nanotubes have the potential to identify as well as destroy cancer cells.

Dr. Sunjie Ye of the Leeds Institute for Biomedical and Clinical Sciences at the University of Leeds, who is the lead author of the study, claims that the hollow gold nanotubes have several applications for battling cancer. The nanotubes can be used for high-resolution imaging, a tool for delivering drugs and an agent for destroying cancer cells.

The high rate of cancer recurrence following a surgical removal still remains a tough challenge for treating cancer. Radiotherapy or chemotherapy is often given to patients after a surgery, which prevents reoccurrences. However, both these treatments can have severe side effects.

The gold nanotubes, which resemble small drinking straws, are believed to boost the effectiveness of cancer treatments by assimilating therapy and diagnosis in just a single system.

The researchers claim that taking advantage of the latest technology they are able to regulate the length of the nanotubes. The length controllability of the nanotubes enables the researchers to create the gold nanotubes at the correct dimensions so they absorb a type of light referred to as near infrared.

The authors of the study reveal that human tissues are actually transparent for some light frequencies in the infrared/red regions, which is why some parts of the human hand appears red when held over a torch.

"When the gold nanotubes travel through the body, if light of the right frequency is shone on them they absorb the light. This light energy is converted to heat, rather like the warmth generated by the Sun on skin. Using a pulsed laser beam, we were able to rapidly raise the temperature in the vicinity of the nanotubes so that it was high enough to destroy cancer cells," says Professor Steve Evans, who is the corresponding author of the study.

The researchers suggest that adjusting the laser pulse's brightness can control the application of the gold nanotubes such as cancer cell destruction mode or for imaging tumors.

The nanotubes are hollow and can carry medicines for individual patients. Doctors can personalize cancer medicines for a patient and then use it for better treatment of the cancer with limited side effects on the patients.

Gold nanotube usage for cancer imaging and treatment is in trial stages but is moving towards clinical studies.

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