Quantum dots are incredibly tiny semiconductor particles. Being only a few nanometres in size, they are often used in lights and television screens due to their fluorescent and electronic properties.
Now, researches are discovering other potential applications. After studying mice, it was recently found that quantum dots not only reduced Parkinson-like symptoms but also prevented toxic clumps of protein from forming in the brain.
The Effect of Quantum Dots In the Brain
Due to the small size of quantum dots, they can easily pass from the bloodstream into the brain. To study this effect, researchers from Seoul National University in South Korea observed mice primed to develop Parkinson’s. They were interested in how quantum dots would influence the molecules associated with Parkinson’s, as well as other brain disorders.
For those living with Parkinson’s, for instance, symptoms may develop due to a protein, known as synuclein. As this protein begins to fold into the wrong shape, it causes a chain reaction to occur. This results in the death of neurons and the development of problematic symptoms.
When the team of researchers studied quantum dots in a dish (which were made from a form of carbon known as graphene), the quantum dots appeared to bind to synuclein. To their surprise, the quantum dots did not just stop this protein from clumping together. They also broke up existing fibers into individual molecules.
Testing Quantum Dots In Mice
After observing the effect of quantum dots in a dish, the researchers injected quantum dots into mice dosed with fibrils. This would typically cause their motor skills to worsen. Six months following the injection of quantum dots, the mice improved on two different physical tests.
Of course, it is unclear how these effects would translate in actual human patients. However, the researchers do believe that quantum dots would offer a positive effect. While studying the impact of Parkinson’s in the past, some approaches tested on mice have not worked in humans.
Although optimistic, the researchers are not making any conclusions until they test their theory on human subjects. However, as stated by the lead author, Byung Hee Hong, as long as safety tests in animals go well, they hope to begin human trials in approximately two years.
Quantum Dots May Also Improve Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
In a separate study, researchers from the Research Center for Bioengineering and Sensing Technology and the University of Science and Technology Beijing found that quantum dots show promise for Alzheimer’s. Similar to the way in which they bind to synuclein, the quantum dots reduced amyloid beta clumps.
Based on these findings, Hong stated that this may be a universal effect. Quantum dots may target any kind of fibrillation and in turn, positively impact a wide range of brain disorders.
Prior Findings Associated with Quantum Dots
In 2012, quantum dots made headlines based on their ability to control brain cells for the first time. It was found that by using quantum dots and light, electrons became excited. First tested in cancer cells, the quantum dots influenced an environment that was negatively charged, impacting the cells’ ion channels.
While studying nerve cells, the opening of ion channels is critical when aiming to generate action potentials. Otherwise known as the signals that allow cells to communicate in the brain. By stimulating quantum dots, the nerve cells were able to fire. You may view this study here.
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Moving forward, we will continue to follow and share the latest in Alzheimer’s and brain research. In the meantime, please check out our Knowledge Center for more informative content.