As a kid, the concept of humans using nanotechnology was something I assumed was reserved for science fiction, but apparently clinical research has already proved me wrong. According to a recent article from Dark Daily, not only do researcher possess the technology, but they have been studying the effect of nanoparticles in the diagnosis of cancer. The study, led by Nicholas J. Long, PhD, senior author and professor in the chemistry department at Imperial College London, utilizes nanoparticles manipulated to attach themselves to cancer cells in order to allow the presence of a tumor to appear more clearly in MRIs.
“Our aim is to help doctors spot something that might be cancerous much more quickly,” explained Long in the Dark Daily piece. “That would enable patients to receive effective treatments sooner, which would hopefully improve survival rates from cancer. ”
The story described the nanoparticles as coated in a protein that finds and adheres to cancer cells. Once these are found, they “self-assemble, aggregating into larger particles that show up well under MRI.” Despite the undeniable potential this technology has in the identification of cancers, however, there are still a lot of important questions to be answered. For example, scientists are unclear on the best size relative to their toxicity to the human body or how to improve the signals sent out by the tiny particles.
“We’re now looking at fine-tuning the size of the final nanoparticle, so that it is even smaller but still gives an enhanced MRI Image,” said Juan Gallo, PhD, of the department of surgery and cancer at Imperial College London, in the Dark Daily article. [“] If it is too small, the body will just secret it out before imaging. But too big, and it could be harmful to the body. Getting it just right is really important before moving to a human trial.”
Although the study is in its early phases, currently using mouse models, and the researchers still have a lot of work ahead of them, the plan is to be able to start human trials within three to five years. The article noted the study as an important example of multiple specialties working to improve cancer diagnostics in their own fields. The impact of success with the nanoparticles could have a substantial, long-term impact on the role of clinical laboratory professionals and pathologists, as well as radiologists and imaging professionals.