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Graphene Nanoribbons: Prospects of Application in Biomedicine and Toxicity

Graphene nanoribbons are a type of graphene characterized by remarkable electrical and mechanical properties. This review considers the prospects for the application of graphene ribbons in biomedicine, taking into account safety aspects. According to the analysis of the recent studies, the topical areas of using graphene nanoribbons include mechanical, chemical, photo- and acoustic sensors, devices for the direct sequencing of biological macromolecules, including DNA, gene and drug delivery vehicles, and tissue engineering. There is evidence of good biocompatibility of graphene nanoribbons with human cell lines, but a number of researchers have revealed toxic effects, including cytotoxicity and genotoxicity. Moreover, the damaging effects of nanoribbons are often higher than those of chemical analogs, for instance, graphene oxide nanoplates. The possible mechanism of toxicity is the ability of graphene nanoribbons to damage the cell membrane mechanically, stimulate reactive oxidative stress (ROS) production, autophagy, and inhibition of proliferation, as well as apoptosis induction, DNA fragmentation, and the formation of chromosomal aberrations. At the same time, the biodegradability of graphene nanoribbons under the environmental factors has been proven. In general, this review allows us to conclude that graphene nanoribbons, as components of high-precision nanodevices and therapeutic agents, have significant potential for biomedical applications; however, additional studies of their safety are needed. Particular emphasis should be placed on the lack of information about the effect of graphene nanoribbons on the organism as a whole obtained from in vivo experiments, as well as about their ecological toxicity, accumulation, migration, and destruction within ecosystems.

Publication date: 17/09/2021

Author: Olga V. Zakharova

Reference: doi: 10.3390/nano11092425

MDPI (nanomaterials)


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.