A Novel Biodegradable Photothermal Nanoagent based on Black Phosphorus

A Chinese research team from the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (SIAT) has prepared a novel biodegradable photothermal nanoagent based on black phosphorus. This work leaded by Prof. YU Xufeng, ZHANG Han and Paul K. Chu et al. has been published as “Biodegradable black phosphorus-based nanospheres for in vivo photothermal cancer therapy” in Nature Communications.  

Development of novel nanomaterials and advanced nanotechnology for cancer treatment has attracted significant attention. As a promising alternative or supplement to the traditional cancer therapy, photothermal therapy (PTT) based on the interaction between tissues and near infrared (NIR) radiation offers many advantages such as high efficiency and minimal invasiveness. But, clinical adoption of PTT nanoagents has been stifled by the unresolved concerns such as the biodegradability and long-term toxicity. Therefore, it is in dire need of developing a new PTT agents which not only have the proper size enabling efficient tumor targeting, but also possess biocompatibility and biodegradability performance that ensuring the nanoparticles, thus this agent can be discharged harmlessly from the body in a reasonable period of time after completion of the designed therapeutic functions.  

As a new member of 2D materials, atomically thin black phosphorus (BP) has shown many potential applications in electronics and optoelectronics. Phosphorus (P) is one of the vital elements, BP can be degraded in aqueous media, BP quantum dots (BPQDs) has large NIR extinction coefficient, high photothermal conversion efficiency, and little cytotoxicity, all these properties leads to its potential therapeutic agents advantage. However, their actual clinical application in vivo still suffers from rapid renal excretion and degradation of the optical properties during circulation in the body. 

In Prof. YU’s work, in order to accomplish high therapeutic efficacy and desirable biodegradation, poly (lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) loaded with 3 nm BPQDs is processed by an oil-in-water emulsion solvent evaporation method to produce ~100 nm BPQDs/PLGA nanospheres (NSs). The hydrophobic PLGA not only isolates the interior BPQDs from oxygen and water to enhance the photothermal stability, but also controls the degradation rate of the BPQDs in the physiological medium. The in vitro and in vivo experiments demonstrates that the BPQDs/PLGA nanospheres have inappreciable toxicity and good biocompatibility, possess excellent PTT efficiency and tumor targeting ability, which were evidenced by the highly efficient tumor ablation under near infrared (NIR) laser illumination. Compared to other nanoagents, these BP-based nanospheres with the unique combination of biodegradability and biocompatibility are highly efficient PTT agents, and have immense clinical potential. 

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundations of China, Frontiers of Research with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenzhen Peacock Program and Basic Research Plan in Shenzhen City. 


Image by Prof. YU


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