The institute
FEMTO's news

You are here

Understanding the cytotoxicity of metallic nanoparticles

A recent study published in the journal "Chemical Science" and involving FEMTO-ST gives new insights into the understanding of the mechanisms of DNA alteration in cells by metallic nanoparticles.

Oxidative stress is one of the processes often incriminated in the genesis of many diseases, such as cancers. This oxidative stress is characterized by the production in cells of oxidizing species called ROS (reactive oxygen species), which can alter DNA. The production of ROS results from electron transfer processes involving metal cations. Fortunately, most cells have effective self-defense systems that prevent the formation of ROS. Molecules from the catechol family (aromatic molecules with at least two adjacent alcohol functions) act as ROS defense agents. These well-known electron exchange mechanisms are the perfect explanation for the toxicity of metal oxide nanoparticles. However, the mechanism of action of metal oxide nanoparticles is still unknown, even though they are more toxic than their oxide-based alter-ego or the corresponding metal cations in solution.

Researchers from the Néel Institute (CNRS/University Grenoble Alpes), the FEMTO-ST Institute (CNRS/University Bourgogne-Franche-Comté), the Institute of Materials Science in Madrid (Spain) and the Institute of Materials Science in Trieste (Italy) have discovered sources of cytoxicity for metallic nanoparticles.

To understand and model the role of the surface of nanoparticles, the researchers focused their study on a low-energy (particularly stable) surface of copper interacting with a molecular layer under ultra-high vacuum. Observations of individual molecules, using scanning tunneling microscopy, high-resolution analysis of the composition of each molecule, and ab initio calculations, revealed how the molecules are gradually transformed. The main result shows that the copper surface is the site of a very particular oxidation-reduction reaction, known as "intramolecular": the catechol molecules see their alcohol functions oxidized while other functions are reduced, thanks to a transfer of electrons between the substituents of the same molecule. This transformation is governed by the alignment of the electronic levels of the copper surface and the molecules, the copper surface "forcing" the molecule to transform itself to allow its adsorption.

This study proposes a mechanism of action of the surfaces of metallic nanoparticles to transform cell defense agents into ROS-type agents that can alter cellular DNA and thus cause cancer. The metal plays a catalytic role here, i.e. a minute quantity of copper surface can oxidize a very large quantity of catechol-type molecules. The study illustrates the power of the paraphernalia of surface science techniques to uncover the evolution of a priori very complex systems, including living systems. The work will be extended to validate in a biological environment the mechanism of action of the metallic nanoparticles discovered and to open up new perspectives in the understanding of the mechanisms of DNA alteration.

Online article

DOI : 10.1039/D0SC04883F

 Contact : Frédéric Chérioux

  • Two best student paper awards for Ishamol Labbaveettil

    Awards for her PhD work on KNbO3 films

    Read more
  • Dissociating Nitrogen Molecules Using Silicon Atoms

    Researchers from FEMTO-ST have just demonstrated a novel process for dissociating nitrogen molecules through low-energy footprint processes, a crucial step towards the decarbonized production of high-value-added molecules.

    Read more
  • DESCROIX-VERNIER ETHICSCIENCE award for Agathe FIGAROL

    An innovative tumor model on a microchip to fight brain cancer

    Read more
  • A novel approach to filling miniature atomic clock cells

    This new method, which gains flexibility, paves the way for large-scale production of atomic sensors.

    Read more
  • National Days on Emerging Technologies in Micro-Nanofabrication

    These scientific days, which take place from November 30 to December 2 in Besançon, France, bring together the major French players in micro-nanotechnologies, process engineering, physics and modeling of manufacturing processes.

    Read more
  • 16th International Symposium on Distributed Autonomous Robotic Systems

    Nearly a hundred scientists from all over the world will meet under the auspices of FEMTO-ST, in Montbéliard from November 28 to 30 to exchange on an interdisciplinary field in full expansion.

    Read more
  • Fei Gao wins the "Sustainable Future Visionary Award"

    Full professor at UTBM and researcher at FEMTO-ST institute, Fei Gao is today one of the world's leading specialists in fuel cells and digital twins.

    Read more
  • Gold micron award at MICRONORA trade fair 2022

    FEMTO-ST is awarded a gold micron for its three-dimensional nanorobotic structure, which is precisely and continuously actuated according to the power of light for the gripping of nano objects.

    Read more
  • FEMTO-ST at MICRONORA trade fair 2022

    From September 27th to 30th, more than 600 direct exhibitors and 15000 professional visitors are expected in Besançon on the international microtechnology exhibition. FEMTO-ST and FEMTO Engineering will be present.

    Read more
  • The fastest pick-and-place robot in the world

    A research team has developed a miniature robot capable of manipulating micrometric objects at unprecedented speeds. This work has been published in the prestigious American journal "Science Robotics"

    Read more

Pages