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Now, Cobra venom can help surgeons spot cancer tumours

The researchers used venom of the Thai or monocled cobra, a species found in UP , Bihar, and the North-East.

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Last Updated: Dec 14, 2016, 11.23 AM IST
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The researchers used venom of the Thai or monocled cobra, a species found in UP , Bihar, and the North-East.
The researchers used venom of the Thai or monocled cobra, a species found in UP , Bihar, and the North-East.
What do lethal cobra venom, quantum dots and cancer diagnosis have in common?

Nothing till a team of Russian and Indian scientists put their heads to it and developed an innovative technique to take sharp images of cancer growths.

Researchers from Tezpur University , Assam working with the National University of Science and Technology MISIS (NUST MISIS), Moscow combined highly poisonous chemicals called alphaneurotoxins found in cobra venom with fluorescent nanoparticles of cadmium selenide known as quantum dots.The new substance was found to effectively mark the boundaries of cancer growths.

Cancer surgeons need to see the exact boundaries of the cancerous growth so that it can be removed: the more precisely the boundary is marked, the more effective the operation will be. The newly made chemical can do this very precisely because of its unique properties.

Researchers from NUST MISIS created the unique hybrid compound by combining cobra venom and quantum dots. When it is introduced in a cancerous growth, the snake venom part attaches to certain parts of cancer cells. The quantum dot part emits light when energised.

The neurotoxin-quantum dot conjugate reaches the infected organ with the blood flow and marks the entire boundary of the neoplasm with fluorescent nanoparticles, which fluoresce when irradiated with UV light, which the human eye cannot see. By scanning the cancer one can get an image of the whole growth lit up like a Christmas tree.

The Indian researchers played an equally important role by testing the new hybrid in various types of cells to see whether it is toxic or not. This is essential if the new chemical is to be safely used in detection of human cancers.

“We used specially devised methods to synthesize neurotoxin-quantum dot conjugates that maintain stability in human use. The nanoparticles of cadmium selenide are covered with a thin film of peptide (very short protein), which explains the high biocompatibility of conjugates and helps neutralize the toxicity of the quantum dots.“

“At the same time, these conjugates are smaller than their analogues, which greatly simplifies the delivery of the substance into the organ,“ said Yury Utkin, project director and professor at NUST MISIS.

The researchers used venom of the Thai or monocled cobra, a species found in UP , Bihar, and the North-East. It has an O-shaped mark on the hood unlike the common Indian Cobra which has a spectacle or U-shaped mark.

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