Folate-grafted boron nitride nanotubes: Possible exploitation in cancer therapy

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Graphical abstractFolate-conjugated boron nitride nanotubes are internalized by HeLa cells.Boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) have generated considerable interest among the scientific community because of their unique physical and chemical properties. They present good chemical inertness, high thermal stability, and optimal resistance to oxidation, that make them ideal candidates for biomedical applications, in particular as nanovectors for drug, gene and protein delivery into the cells. In this study, BNNTs were prepared through a synthesis based on a chemical vapor deposition (CVD) method, and thereafter chemically functionalized with folic acid. The obtained nanostructures have been characterized by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The characterization showed efficiently functionalized BNNTs of length of about 1 μm. Furthermore, confocal laser microscopy demonstrated that our nanotubes can be fluorescently-traced under appropriate excitation. Thanks to this property, it has been possible to investigate their internalization by HeLa cells through confocal microscopy, demonstrating that the BNNT up-take clearly increases after the functionalization with folate, a result confirmed by inductively coupled plasma (ICP) assessment of boron content inside the treated cell cultures.

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