In tests with mice, the nanorods yielded images nearly 60 times brighter than conventional fluorescent dyes, including rhodamine, commonly used for a wide range of biological imaging to study the inner workings of cells and molecules.
Findings are detailed in a research paper that appeared online last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper was written by researchers in Purdue's Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Chemistry.
The nanorods might be used to develop an advanced medical imaging tool for the early detection of cancer, said Ji-Xin Cheng (pronounced Gee-Shin), an assistant professor of biomedical engineering.The gold rods are about 20 nanometers wide and 60 nanometers long, or roughly 200 times smaller than a red blood cell.
Gold nanorods represent a possible way to overcome barriers in developing advanced medical imaging techniques that use light to analyze blood vessels and underlying tissues.
"One obstacle is that light in the visible spectrum does not pass through tissue very well," said Alexander Wei, an associate professor of chemistry who worked with Cheng and other Purdue researchers, including Philip S. Low, a professor of chemistry.
Imaging methods might be developed using laser pulses in longer wavelengths of light, beyond the visible range in a region of the spectrum called near infrared.
"There is a window of light in the near infrared, wavelengths from about 800 to 1,300 nanometers, which could be harnessed for new imaging technologies," Wei said.
Tiny gold rods with a certain "aspect ratio" of length to width shine brightly when illuminated by light in this spectral region. The gold nanorods are ideal