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Tagging tumors with gold: Scientists use gold nanorods to flag brain tumors
Date:10/12/2011

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12"It's not brain surgery" is a phrase often uttered to dismiss a job's difficulty, but when the task actually is removing a brain tumor, even the slightest mistake could have serious health consequences. To help surgeons in such high-pressure situations, researchers from Prof. Adam Wax's team at Duke University's Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics and Biomedical Engineering Department have proposed a way to harness the unique optical properties of gold nanoparticles to clearly distinguish a brain tumor from the healthy, and vital, tissue that surrounds it. The team will present their findings at the Optical Society's (OSA) Annual Meeting, Frontiers in Optics (FiO) 2011 (http://www.frontiersinoptics.com/), taking place in San Jose, Calif. next week.

Current techniques for outlining brain tumors vary, but all have limitations, such as the inability to perform real-time imaging without big, expensive equipment, or the toxicity and limited lifespan of certain labeling agents. Gold nanoparticleswhich are so small that 500 of them end-to-end could fit across a human hairmight provide a better way to flag tumorous tissue, since they are non-toxic and relatively inexpensive to manufacture.

The Duke researchers synthesized gold, rod-shaped nanoparticles with varying length-to-width ratios. The different-sized particles displayed different optical properties, so by controlling the nanorods' growth the team could "tune" the particles to scatter a specific frequency of light. The researchers next joined the tuned particles to antibodies that bind to growth factor receptor proteins found in unusually high concentrations on the outside of cancer cells. When the antibodies latched on to cancer cells, the gold nanoparticles marked their presence.

The team tested the method by bathing slices of tumor-containing mouse brain in a solution of gold nanoparticles merged with antibodies.
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Contact: Angela Stark
astark@osa.org
202-416-1443
Optical Society of America
Source:Eurekalert  

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