In a groundbreaking revelation, researchers from Rice University and their partners have unveiled an ingenious method to combat cancer cells, drawing inspiration from The Beach Boys’ iconic track, “Good Vibrations.” This pioneering technique leverages the power of molecular vibrations induced by near-infrared light to annihilate cancerous cells, presenting a beacon of hope in the battle against cancer.

The core of this breakthrough lies in the utilization of a small dye molecule commonly utilized in medical imaging. When exposed to near-infrared light, these molecules exhibit synchronized vibrations, known as plasmons, which trigger the rupture of cancer cell membranes. Published in Nature Chemistry, the team’s findings showcased an astounding 99 percent efficacy in eliminating lab-cultured human melanoma cells, with half of the melanoma-afflicted mice experiencing complete remission post-treatment.

Termed as “molecular jackhammers” by Rice chemist James Tour, these remarkable molecules represent a paradigm shift. Previously, Tour’s team had employed nanoscale compounds equipped with light-activated paddle-like chains of atoms to penetrate and disassemble the outer membranes of infectious bacteria, cancer cells, and drug-resistant fungi.

Distinguished from Nobel laureate Bernard Feringa’s molecular motors, which operate via a distinct mechanism, these molecular jackhammers boast speeds over a million times faster and respond to near-infrared light, marking an unprecedented achievement. Notably, near-infrared light’s ability to penetrate deep within the human body without causing harm to tissues stands as a significant advantage.

The molecular jackhammers responsible for this medical breakthrough are aminocyanine molecules, a class of synthetic dyes extensively utilized in medical imaging. Despite their simplicity, these molecules exhibit remarkable biocompatibility, water stability, and an affinity for attaching to the outer lipid layer of cells. Lead author Ciceron Ayala-Orozco noted the molecules’ ability to oscillate in sync when exposed to the right stimulus, leading to the idea of utilizing plasmons as a form of treatment.

Crucially, the study established that this method of action does not fall into the categories of photodynamic or photothermal therapy, marking a significant departure. To delve deeper into the molecular features responsible for this “jackhammering” effect, researchers at Texas A&M University conducted time-dependent density functional theory analysis.

Collaborating with Dr. Jeffrey Myers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the team conducted cancer studies on mice, further bolstering the efficacy and potential of their discovery.

The revelation of molecular jackhammers heralds a promising avenue in the ongoing battle against cancer, offering a novel approach that targets cancer cells at the molecular level. With its remarkable efficiency and minimal invasiveness, this breakthrough holds the potential to revolutionize cancer treatment, instilling renewed hope for patients and researchers alike. The resonance of “Good Vibrations” in science has ushered in a new wave of optimism in the fight against cancer.

By Impact Lab