‘Buckybombs' Take Aim at Cancer Cells

Nanoscale treatment could potentially eliminate cancer cells without harming surrounding tissue.

Nanoscale treatment could potentially eliminate cancer cells without harming surrounding tissue.

A revolutionary nanoscale treatment may represent the next wave of breakthrough cancer therapies.

In a study published recently in The Journal of Physical Chemistry, researchers examined the treatment of cancer through the use Buckminsterfullerene, which are spheres consisting of 60 conjoined carbon atoms that carry special physical properties.

Investigators are seeking transform the spheres into so called “Buckybombs,”a nanoscale explosive with potential use as a cancer treatment that may eventually target and destroy cancer at the cellular level through small explosions that kill the cancer cells without harming surrounding tissue.

"Future applications would probably use other types of carbon structures -- such as carbon nanotubes, but we started with Bucky-balls because they're very stable, and a lot is known about them," corresponding author Oleg V. Prezhdo said in a press release.

By modifying carbon nanotubes similarly to the “Buckybombs,” researchers predict they can make more efficient cancer therapies, which would subsequently reduce the amount of treatment that is necessary. Carbon nanotubes can be grouped in cancer cells and heated up by a laser to penetrate surrounding tissues without causing tissue damage.

To construct the miniature explosives, researchers attached 12 nitrous oxide molecules to a single Bucky-Ball before heating it. The Bucky-Ball disintegrated within picosecond, which subsequently increased temperature by thousands of degrees during a controlled explosion.

The power source for the explosion was generated by breaking apart powerful carbon bonds to combine with oxygen from nitrous oxide, which caused the creation of carbon dioxide, according to the study.