Research Highlights

Red seaweed polysaccharide inhibits growth of cancer cells

doi:10.1038/nindia.2020.88 Published online 27 May 2020

Researchers have synthesised a nanocomposite containing seaweed that can inhibit the growth of blood, colon and breast cancer cells1. The nanocomposite, made using a red-seaweed-derived polysaccharide and silver nanoparticles, has been found to selectively kill the cancer cells, sparing healthy cells.

These findings, the researchers say, show the potential of the abundant, renewable seaweed biomass in developing nanotherapy for cancer.

Silver nanoparticles are coveted for their antimicrobial and anticancer properties. Existing methods to produce silver nanoparticles utilise toxic chemicals. Such nanoparticles tend to coalesce and lose efficiency if stored for a long time.

To overcome such drawbacks, scientists from the CSIR-Central Salt & Marine Chemicals Research Institute in Gujarat and the Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (the R&D wing of the Tata Memorial Centre) in Mumbai, India, isolated agar ‒ a type of polysaccharide from a specific red seaweed ‒ and converted it into agar aldehyde. They then used the agar aldehyde to synthesise silver nanoparticles.

The nanoparticles and the aldehyde formed a stable nanocomposite. The researchers, led by Jyoti Kode and Ramavatar Meena, found that the nanocomposite checked the growth of human colon, blood and breast cancer cells.

They then grew tumours in mice using the same human cancer cells. Treating the mice with the nanocomposite significantly shrank the volume of the tumours. The nanocomposite-treated mice didn’t lose body weight. Their gut and gut bacteria remained intact.

The nanocomposite was found to be non-toxic to both healthy cells and stem cells. The stem cells have the potential to repair and regenerate organs damaged by cancers, says Kode.


1. Kholiya, F. et al. Seaweed polysaccharide derived bioaldehyde nanocomposite: potential application in anticancer therapeutics. Carbohydr. Polymer. 240, 116282 (2020)