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WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol
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Carbon nanotubes: potential medical applications and safety concerns

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Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have unique atomic structure, as well as outstanding thermal, mechanical, and electronic properties, making them extremely attractive materials for several different applications. Many research groups are focusing on biomedical applications of carbon‐based nanomaterials, however the application of CNTs to the biomedical field is not developing as fast as in other areas. While CNTs‐based products are already being used in textiles, polymer matrices to strengthen materials, sports articles, microelectronics, energy storage, etc., medicinal products and medical devices for in vivo application based on CNTs have not been commercialized yet. However, CNTs for biomedical application, i.e., CNTs conjugated to siRNA for cancer therapy, or CNTs for imaging of colorectal cancer and many other products may enter clinical trials in the next years. Concerns related to the toxicity of CNTs must be overcome in order to have these products commercialized in a near future. This article reviews emerging biomedical applications of CNTs, specifically for therapy. It also deals with challenges associated with possible medical applications of CNTs, such as their not fully understood toxicological profile in the human body. WIREs Nanomed Nanobiotechnol 2015, 7:371–386. doi: 10.1002/wnan.1317 This article is categorized under: Therapeutic Approaches and Drug Discovery > Emerging Technologies Therapeutic Approaches and Drug Discovery > Nanomedicine for Oncologic Disease Toxicology and Regulatory Issues in Nanomedicine > Toxicology of Nanomaterials
Schematic representation of CNT's medical applications discussed in this review.
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Optical and transmission electron microscope analysis of Balb/3 T3 cells exposed to 100 µg/mL of MWCNTs. Cells in culture with MWCNTs agglomerates on top of the cells (see arrow in (a)); cells after 72 h of exposure showing MWCNTs inside cell organelles and in the nucleus (Nu) membrane (see arrows in (b)). Pictures courtesy of J. Ponti (European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Health and Consumers Protection, Nanobiosciences Unit, Ispra) and S. Meschini (Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Department of Technology and Health, Rome, Italy).
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Classification of CNTs depending on the walls number: single‐walled (a) and MWCNTs (b). (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright 2010 © IOP Publishing.)
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Schematic representation of a CNT‐based multifunctional system having both diagnostic and therapeutic functions. The CNT's cavity is loaded with a diagnostic agent, the CNT surface is linked with targeting moieties (e.g., a chemical receptor or an antibody) and a drug is conjugated to the outside wall through a cleavable linker.
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Electron transmission micrograph of MWCNTs, showing CNT nanoparticles dispersed into double distilled water. The presence of metal catalysts inside the tubes can be observed (a). Electron transmission micrograph of MWNTs illustrating the entanglement of CNT, and the formation of large agglomerates (b). Pictures courtesy of the Electron Microscopy service of CODA‐CERVA.
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Therapeutic Approaches and Drug Discovery > Emerging Technologies
Therapeutic Approaches and Drug Discovery > Nanomedicine for Oncologic Disease
Toxicology and Regulatory Issues in Nanomedicine > Toxicology of Nanomaterials

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