Real-time image of tumours in a mouse obtained using gold Cerenkov-light-emitting nanocages.
(Courtesy: Y Wang)


Gold nanocages could image and treat tumours

Feb 25, 2013

Tiny gold particles called nonocages that emit Cerenkov light could be used to image tumours and deliver drugs to destroy them at the same time. That is the claim of researchers in the US, who have detected Cerenkov light from within live mice that had been injected with the nanoparticles. The nanocages are among the very first reported “theranostic” nanoparticles that have the potential to fulfil both therapeutic and diagnostic roles in medicine.

Gold nanocages are tiny structures with hollow interiors and ultrathin porous walls. They are of particular interest to medical researchers because they do not interact with biological materials and can therefore be used within the body. Nanocages can also be designed to absorb and scatter light in the near-infrared (NIR) region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Light at these wavelengths (700–900 nm) can penetrate deeply into soft biological tissue and so is perfect for optical imaging based on photoacoustic and optical-coherence tomography.

Younan Xia at the Georgia Institute of Technology, together with Yongjian Liu from Washington University School of Medicine and Cathy Cutler at the University of Missouri, have done experiments that suggest that gold nanocages containing radioactive gold-198 could also be used as contrast agents in luminescence imaging, while in addition carrying drugs to tumours.

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