Scientists Accidentally Discover Tea Leaf Nanoparticles “Destroy Lung Cancer Cells”

June 16, 2018 at 2:39 pm




Tea leaves contain one of the most effective treatments for lung cancer to date, scientists have “accidentally” discovered.





Researchers from India and the UK were manufacturing nanoparticles from tea leaves to help detect lung cancer tumors.

They were amazed to discover the “quantum dots” not only detected, but also “destroyed” 80% of the lung cancer cells they helped find.

Quantum dots are tiny nanoparticles, 4,000th of the width of a human hair. They’re useful for tumor imaging because their changeable structure gives them fluorescence when they’re hit with light.

Until now they’ve been made chemically, but the process is complicated, expensive and toxic. So the researchers were exploring a non-toxic, plant-based alternative for producing the dots, using camellia sinensis tea leaf extract.

“The main reason we started looking at tea leaves is that chemically synthesized quantum dots cost between £250 and £500 per micro-gram, whereas organically-derived ones can be manufactured for £10 per microgram, and at the same time they don’t poison healthy cells surrounding the cancer,”  lead researcher Sudhagar Pitchaimuthu told BBC News.

(L-R) Dr Catherine Suenne de Castro, Dr Matthew Lloyd Davies and Dr Sudhagar Pitchaimuthu were on the team that made the discovery at Swansea University

“They had exceptional fluorescence emission for cancer cell bio-imaging, but the cherry on the cake was finding the cells were dying off and weren’t able to replicate themselves.”

Apparently the quantum dots were small enough to penetrate the “nanopores” of the cancer cell walls.

The polyphenols, amino acids, vitamins and antioxidants in the tea leaf dots — which aren’t present in chemically made dots — induce cancer cell death by a process called apoptosis, obliterating the DNA information they require to reproduce themselves.

Pitchaimuthu, an engineer from Swansea University, said harnessing the power of the quantum dots as a real-world lung cancer treatment could still be some years off:

“First we have to scale-up the production from the tiny amounts we’ve created in the laboratory, to create a quantum dot factory.”

“We hope to start live laboratory trials shortly, with human clinical trials following in around two years if all goes well, so perhaps in a decade we could have a widely-available treatment.”

His team is also investigating other potential uses for the quantum dots, including in solar cells, water pollution treatments, anti-microbial paint and sun screen lotions.

As a bonus, the tea leaves used to manufacture the dots come from the third of the crop deemed unsuitable for sale, which normally end up in landfill.