Press Release Date: November 24, 2014
A unique biomarker which features two remarkable functions has been created by researchers at the Nanyang Technological University with two resultant papers being published.
The first characteristic of the new biomarker is its ability to light up once it detects tumor cells, something that allows scientists better observe the growth. Secondly it has the ability to release cancer treatment drugs at the same time within the cells under observation. The new biomarker is created from a nanophosphor particle, nearly ten thousand times smaller than a grain of sand. The researchers, associate professors at NTU Zhang Qichun and Joachim Loo have managed to make the nanoparticle light up after stimulation from by near-infrared light provided by an imaging device and dependent upon the tumor cells releasing small signaling molecules.
Prof Zhang’s team’s use of near-infrared light is unique due to most current imaging techniques involving either ultraviolet or visible light. Near-infrared light has the capacity to penetrate between 3 and 4 cm under the surface of the skin to reach deep tissue, deeper than visible light without causing damage to healthy cells, as can be encountered with ultraviolet and visible light. The use of visible light can also cause photo bleaching, the degradation of fluorescence dyes used by doctors and scientists to reduce the time needed to image a tissue sample.
Prof Loo‘s team believes that the newly invented biomarker could be used to release cancer treatment drugs through creating a layer of drug infused coating on the outside of the nanoparticle which will release its payload once the biomarker lights up under the near infrared light. Other advantages offered by the biomarker are that it provides twice the contrast of current more conventional imaging dyes and can emit a total of three different light colors allowing for enhanced differentiation between healthy and cancerous cells.
“The NTU teams new biomarker offers some exciting possibilities, some of which we can see be implemented into our own nanoparticle delivery systems and others which will assist us indirectly through advancing the state of imaging technology, something that is vital for us a company to be able to tune the best responses from our techniques” discussed Dr. Eli Stein COO and CMO of ESNano Tech.
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