Green tea destroys lung cancer cells

 By Warren Miller.    4th June 2018

A team of scientists from Swansea University were creating quantum dots - microscopic biomarkers - to try and improve the detection and imaging of tumours. This could have implications for future treatment of malignant mesothelioma.

tea leaf biomarkers

The quantum dots are nano-particles which measure less than 10 nanometres.

A human hair for example is 40,000 nanometres thick, they are used in everything from computers and solar cells to tumour imaging.

The scientists were working in collaboration with researchers at Bharathiar University, a state university in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, South India.

During the research, they tried to improve the luminosity of the nano-particles and introduced tea leaf extract. The synthesised quantum dots are expensive, costing up to £500 per microgram, whereas organically-derived ones can be manufactured for £10 per microgram. The tea is also less poisonous to healthy cells surrounding the cancerous cells. The Tea leaves also contain a wide variety of compounds, including polyphenols, amino acids, vitamins and antioxidants.

The quantum dots derived from tea leaf extract showed exceptional fluorescence emission in cancer cell bioimaging compared to conventional nano-particles.

As well as the increased fluorescence, the scientists found something completely unexpected: the tea plants actually reduced the size of the quantum dots considerably and they destroyed 80 % of the lung cancer cells they were exposed to. Further research using flow cytometry showed that the lung cancer cells were unable to complete their cycle of replication.

There have been other studies that have suggested that the polyphenols in green tea can help support the treatment of cancers including mesothelioma by reducing inflammation, fighting oxidation, and boosting the immune system.

Dr Pitchaimuthu of Swansea University said:

Our research confirmed previous evidence that tea leaf extract can be a non-toxic alternative to making quantum dots using chemicals. The real surprise, however, was that the dots actively inhibited the growth of the lung cancer cells. We hadn’t been expecting this.
Building on this exciting discovery, the next step is to scale up our operation, hopefully with the help of other collaborators. We want to investigate the role of tea leaf extract in cancer cell imaging, and the interface between quantum dots and the cancer cell. We would like to set up a ‘quantum dot factory’ which will allow us to explore more fully the ways in which they can be used.

About the research:
The paper is entitled “Green-Synthesis-Derived CdS Quantum Dots Using Tea Leaf Extract:Antimicrobial, BioImaging and Therapeutic Applications in Lung Cancer Cells”. Published in Applied Nano Materials, April 2018
The authors are: Kavitha Shivaji, Suganya Mani, Mythili Gnanamangai Balasubramanian (K. S. Rangasamy College of Technology, Tamil Nadu, India); Ponnosamy Ponmurugan (Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, India); Catherine Suenne De Castro, Matthew Lloyd Davies, Sudhagar Pitchaimuthu (SPECIFIC, Materials Research Centre, Swansea University).

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