Conjugated polymer promising for imaging and therapy of cancer cell activity

Libing Liu, Shu Wang and colleagues at Beijing National Laboratory for Molecular Science have investigated cellular uptake of a cationic polythiophene polymer (PMNT) in cancer cells and shown that it has potential for simultaneous therapeutic and imaging applications.

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Conjugated polymers have been studied for a range of applications from optoelectronic devices to sensors for various molecules, but their therapeutic properties for cancer treatment have yet to be exploited. Now, Libing Liu, Shu Wang and colleagues at Beijing National Laboratory for Molecular Science have investigated cellular uptake of a cationic polythiophene polymer (PMNT) in cancer cells and shown that it has potential for simultaneous therapeutic and imaging applications.1

Although the polymer is highly charged, the team found that it readily enters cells, independent of temperature and molecular weight of the polymer. PMNT shows selective toxicity for the renal cell carcinoma lines and irradiating with a mercury lamp enhances the toxicity, demonstrating potential for these conjugated polymers in photodynamic therapy, explains Wang. Additionally, the polymers were used to distinguish live and dead, or apoptotic cells under fluorescence microscopy.

Conjugated polymer allows imaging of cells, and has therapeutic potential.1

Wang is especially excited about dual role of the PMNT saying it makes it "an attractive candidate as a multifunctional therapeutic agent."

"This work is a really nice study of the interaction of these highly charged systems with cells," comments Vincent Rotello, professor of chemistry at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, US. "It opens the doors for imaging and potential therapeutic applications with fine-tuning of polymer functionality."

The multifunctional nature of PMNT is a promising start to the study of conjugated polymers in disease therapeutics; further study and fine-tuning of the properties of conjugated polymers is the next step in what could be an intriguing area of anti-cancer research.

1. Libing Liu, J. Mater.Chem., 2010, DOI: 10.1039/c0jm01078b.

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