A new chemotherapy agent-free theranostic system composed of graphene oxide nano-complex and aptamers for treatment of cancer cells

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The common cancer treatment strategies like chemotherapy and radiotherapy are nonspecific and can trigger severe side effects by damaging normal cells. So, targeted cancer therapies, such as apoptosis induction, have attracted great attention in recent years. In this project, two nano-complexes, MUC1 aptamer-NAS-24 aptamer-Graphene oxide (GO) and MUC1 aptamer-Cytochrome C aptamer-GO, were designed to induce cell programmed death in MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cells (breast cancer cell lines) and to verify the level of apoptosis in both cell lines. MUC1 aptamer was a molecular recognition probe that led the internalization of two nano-complexes into MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cells (MUC1 positive cells) but not into HepG2 cell (liver cancer cell line, MUC1 negative cells). The apoptosis induction relied on binding of NAS-24 aptamer to its target, vimentin, in MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 (target cells) with different levels of vimentin content. The function of first nano-complex was confirmed by binding of FAM-labeled cytochrome C aptamer to its target (cytochrome C) which was released from mitochondria, based on the function of the first nano-complex.

Fluorometric analysis and gel retardation assay proved the formation of nano-complexes. The results of flow cytometry and fluorescence microscopy indicated efficient apoptosis induction just in target cells (MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 cells) but not in non-target cells (HepG2 cell). The results of MTT assay also confirmed cell death process.

Overall, our results proved excellent targeted apoptosis in breast cancer cells by designed nano-complexes which can be applied as an efficient cancer therapy method.

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