New solar cell-powered cancer therapies are being developed that could make treatment faster, less painful and more effective.
The new solar cells are similar to the black silicon panels that cover rooftops and harvest electricity from sunlight, yet are far smaller -- tiny enough that the human eye cannot see them unaided, reports Discovery News.
The new microscopic solar cells absorb certain colors of light, like red, that can penetrate the skin and several inches of flesh. That light energy is then converted into electrical energy.
The electricity allows the scientists to impart a charge, either negative or positive. The microscopic solar cells would be coated with a drug that also has a charge, either positive or negative.
If both the solar cell and the drug end up with the same charge, the drug is pushed away from the solar cell and into the tumor, where it does its job.
Unlike other proposed targeted therapies using nanoparticles, which are coated with antibodies that recognize and stick to tumors, the new solar cells would be dispersed through the entire body. A few of them would eventually find their way to the tumor.
The solar cells will only release the drug when activated by light. Solar cells that are not hit by the light never release their toxic cargo, and should eventually be filtered out by the kidneys.
Using charged particles in conjunction with charged drugs is just one way scientists hope to destroy cancer with light.
The finding was recently presented at the AVS conference.