A pioneering study to measure the toxicity of quantum dots in primates has found that the tiny crystals are safe over a period of one year, a hopeful result for doctors and scientists looking for new ways to fight diseases such as cancer through nanomedicine.
The research, published online May 20 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, is likely the first to prove the safety of quantum dots in primates. In the study, scientists observed that four rhesus monkeys injected with cadmium selenide quantum dots maintained normal health for more than 90 days. Blood and biochemical markers remained in typical ranges, and major organs did not develop any abnormalities. The animals did not lose weight. Two monkeys observed for an additional period of one year also showed no signs of illness.
Quantum dots are tiny luminescent crystals that glow in different colors. Medical researchers are studying the use of these crystals in image-guided surgery, light-activated therapies, and sensitive diagnostic tests. Cadmium selenide quantum dots are among the most studied, with potential applications not only in medicine, but also as components of solar cells, quantum computers, and light-emitting diodes, among other things.