DURHAM, N.C. By coupling a kicked-up version of microscopy with miniscule particles of gold, Duke University scientists are now able to peer so deep into living tissue that they can see molecules interacting.
If future studies in animal models prove fruitful, the researchers believe that their new approach can have a wide spectrum of clinical applications, from studying the margins of a tumor as it is removed from the body to assessing the effects of anti-cancer agents on the blood vessels that nourish tumors.
The Duke bioengineers combined tightly focused heat with optical coherence tomography (OCT), which has often been called the optical equivalent of ultrasound. OCT is commonly used in medical clinics where imaging at the highest resolution is critical, such as in the retina. These experiments represent the first time the technique has been extended to the functional imaging of cells expressing particular molecular receptors.
"This technique could possibly augment traditional methods of deep-tissue molecular imaging with a relatively high resolution," said Melissa Skala, a postdoctoral fellow working in the laboratory of Joseph Izatt, professor of biomedical engineering in Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. "Not only were we able to get better images, we were able to specifically target the types of cells we were looking for."
The results of the Duke research were posted on line by Nano Letters, a journal published by the American Chemical Society. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.
For their experiments, the Duke team attached nanospheres of gold to a targeting molecule known as a monoclonal antibody.
Gold is a metal that not only is an efficient conductor of heat, but whose effects in the body are well known. The antibody they used targets epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a cell-surface receptor implicated in cancer.
These "tagged" antibodies we
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