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Nanotechnology may find disease before it starts

Nanotechnology may one day help physicians detect the very earliest stages of serious diseases like cancer, a new study suggests.

It would do so by improving the quality of images produced by one of the most common diagnostic tools used in doctors' offices ?the ultrasound machine.

In laboratory experiments on mice, scientists found that nano-sized particles injected into the animals improved the resulting images. This study is one of the first reports showing that ultrasound can detect these tiny particles when they are inside the body, said Thomas Rosol, a study co-author and dean of the college of veterinary medicine at Ohio State University.

"Given their tiny size, nobody thought it would be possible for ultrasound to detect nanoparticles," he said.

It turns out that not only can ultrasound waves sense nanoparticles, but the particles can brighten the resulting image. One day, those bright spots may indicate that a few cells in the area may be on the verge of mutating and growing out of control.

"The long-term goal is to use this technology to improve our ability to identify very early cancers and other diseases," said Jun Liu, a study co-author and an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Ohio State University. "We ultimately want to identify disease at its cellular level, at its very earliest stage."

The study is in the current issue of the journal Physics in Medicine and Biology.

The researchers injected a solution of silica nanoparticles into the tail vein of each mouse. They then anesthetized the animals and placed them on their backs on a warm imaging table.

Rosol said that Liu and her team are working on creating biodegradable nanoparticles. For the purposes of this study, however, the researchers wanted to use a hard substance, silica, to see if their idea would work. The strongest ultrasound signals are those produced by sound waves bounce off a hard surface. While not biodegradabl
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Source:Ohio State University


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