WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - New research findings suggest that an experimental ultrasensitive medical imaging technique that uses a pulsed laser and tiny metallic "nanocages" might enable both the early detection and treatment of disease.
The system works by shining near-infrared laser pulses through the skin to detect hollow nanocages and solid nanoparticles - made of an alloy of gold and silver - that are injected into the bloodstream.
Unlike previous approaches using tiny metallic nanorods and nanospheres, the new technique does not cause heat damage to tissue being imaged. Another advantage is that it does not produce a background "auto fluorescent" glow of surrounding tissues, which interferes with the imaging and reduces contrast and brightness, said Ji-Xin Cheng (pronounced Gee-Shin), an associate professor of biomedical engineering and chemistry at Purdue University.
"This lack of background fluorescence makes the images much more clear and is very important for disease detection," he said. "It allows us to clearly identify the nanocages and the tissues."
The improved performance could make possible early detection and treatment of cancer. The tiny gold-silver cages also might be used to deliver time-released anticancer drugs to diseased tissue, said Younan Xia, the James M. McKelvey Professor for Advanced Materials in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. His team fabricated the nanocages and nanoparticles used in the research.
The gold-silver structures yielded images 10 times brighter than other experimental imaging research using gold nanospheres and nanorods. The imaging technology provides brightness and contrast potentially hundreds of times better than conventional fluorescent dyes used for a wide range of biological imaging to study the inner workings of cells and molecules.
Findings were detailed in a research paper published online April 6 in the jou
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