A group at the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Ryerson have been developing ‘biomaterials’ to control the growth of cancer cells. These biomaterials are comprised of nanostructures made from titanium oxide (TiO2). In a paper published in Nature Scientific Reports, the investigators highlight the reduction in adhesion and growth of cancer cells grown on the synthesized titanium based nanostructures.
Titanium is widely used for dental, orthopedic, and cardiovascular implants. Its mechanical and chemical stability along with its biocompatibility makes titanium a versatile material for medical use. Biocompatibility, simply put, means titanium is non-toxic and seldom rejected by body. Titanium when exposed to air forms a natural oxide film called titanium oxide. TiO2 is similar to various iron oxides that we commonly associate with rust. TiO2 has been used as a pharmaceutical additive, in sunscreens, creams, and other common consumables. TiO2 nanoparticles have also acted as drug carriers in cancer therapy. In particular, TiO2 particles and nanostructures provide a large surface area which can facilitate the attachment of small molecules, proteins, and cells.
Using ultrashort pulse lasers, nanostructures composed of three different oxides of titanium (TiO, Ti3O, and TiO2 ) were produced. Using microscopy, the researchers demonstrated the ability of the titanium oxides present in the nanostructures to inhibit the growth of HeLa cells, (cells derived from cervical cancer). A greater reduction in cell number was observed when comparing cells grown on nanostructures to those grown on control titanium. The cells grown on the titanium nanostructures exhibited different morphologies and showed fewer adhering cells to the surface. Additionally, the researchers showed that TiO2 nanostructures were able to manipulate HeLa cells more strictly than fibroblasts, a type of connective tissue cell.
In addition to alterations in gene expression, interactions between cell surface receptors and extracellular matrix proteins govern cancer cell behavior. In particular the researchers sought to understand the influence of external physical stimuli in regulating the behavior of cancer cells. The researchers proposed the need for a titanium-based biomaterial that can modulate the behavior of cancer cells, by disrupting their ability to adhere and grow. Chandra, the lead investigator of the paper believes that nanostructure use holds a lot of promise and its therapeutic use may extend beyond the treatment of cancer.
Vijayakumar, C.C., Venkatakrishnan, K., and Tan, B. Harmonizing HeLa cell cytoskeleton behavior by multi-Ti oxide phased nanostructure synthesized through ultrashort pulsed laser. Sci.Rep. ,5, 15294. 2015.