Quantum Dot Tea Factory is the Next Frontier in the War on Cancer

By Gary Cutlack on at

Scientists playing around with tea think they might have stumbled across the next big thing in the battle against lung cancer, with tiny particles less than 10 nanometres across that they intended to use to make cancers more visible actually having a damaging effect on cancer cells.

What they were doing was using tea to create nanoparticles, as creating non-organic nanoparticles is expensive. And tea's cheap. There's some in the cupboard right now. These miniature particles, or quantum dots as they're also called due to being so small, were designed to act as high fluorescence markers that would detect tumours. Only in some happy scientific turn of events, they penetrated the cancer cells through pores in the cell walls, with the blend of tea compounds killing the cancer cells by inhibiting their reproduction.

Swansea University's researcher Dr Sudhagar Pitchaimuthu is being realistic about the timeline for development of his team's tea-based cancer weapon, though, explaining: "First we have to scale-up the production from the tiny amounts we've created in the laboratory, to create a quantum dot factory. Until now we've only killed cells in a Petri dish by directly introducing the dots."

They also need to work on delivering the killer quantum dots only to cancerous cells, all of which could be a decade away – the standard distance-away unit of all futuristic medicine. [Swansea University via BBC]