Porous Carbon Microparticles - Potential Future of Safe Drug Delivery
08 Dec 2020
- Shikha Gianchandani



Researchers from Dublin and the Central Laser Facility demonstrate the potential of porous carbon microparticles as a vehicle to transport agents, such genetic material and anti-cancer drugs, to cells.


​​​​​​​Confocal fluorescence microscopy images of HEK293 cells incubated with L-CµP-FLads particles (a) bright field image and (b) fluorescence image


​With quickly advancing requirements in fields like biology and medicine, scientists have adapted their research to exploit elements like carbon. Carbon offers a platform to carry out innovations in a variety of different ways - from carbon nanomaterials being used in heart valve coatings due to its chemical stability, to carbon surfaces exploited for being highly resistant in corrosive and toxic environments. CLF scientists collaborated with researchers from University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin to publish a study that expedites porous microparticles, a material derived from carbon, to be suitable candidates in biomedical applications.

The ability to encompass carbon's physical and chemical properties such as chemical versatility and high surface area make porous carbon microparticles (CμPs) attractive. These features allow the engineering of molecules that capture transport material and modify their surfaces to be applied in intracellular delivery. With diseases like cancer, it's extremely difficult to ensure that drugs get internalized by cells safely. Therefore, studies like this are essential in demonstrating how carbon materials, like CμPs, can be the future for safe drug delivery.

In a previous study, the researchers confirmed that 700 nm CμPs can be engulfed by cancer cells in the presence of a transfection agent. Transfection agents assist in the transport of materials to cells. In this study, published in Frontiers, researchers tested cellular uptake of small (240nm) and large (690nm) CμPs and their ability to deliver a model payload. Studying these processes led to the conclusion that CμPs are promising intracellular delivery agents.

The researchers manufactured small and large CμP's and compared their sizes using a Scanning Electron Microscope. After synthesizing CμP's, they tested the ability of cancer cells (HeLa) and non-cancer cells (HEK293) to uptake them. Cellular uptake takes place following tightly regulated transport of materials via their outer layer. For experimental purposes, HeLa and HEK293 cells were cultured in the presence and absence of a transfection agent, such as FuGENE. Using confocal microscopy at the OCTOPUS Imaging Cluster researchers imaged the cell lines.

Following cell uptake, the model payload was studied, which established whether the carbon particles would be able to deliver drugs into the cell. CμPs were fluorescently labelled alongside transport material, which was supposed to mimic drug loading into the cell. Fluorescent microscopy demonstrated that CμPs were present in majority of the cells. Put together, the proof-of-concept study showed that in the presence of a transfection agent porous carbon microparticles have the future potential for safe and efficient drug delivery.

Dr Stanley Botchway said,“Although certain carbon material such s nanotubes are known to be harmful to cells, it is interesting to note that when in the porous microparticle form, it can be tolerated well by live cells. Also the ability to show that these formulation can be used for DNA transfection, is particularly exciting and adds to the techniques to deliver complex drugs  into cells.”

Read the paper here.

Contact: Gianchandani, Shikha (STFC,RAL,ISIS)