Molecular imaging is just one technology that is expected to make a significant impact in the next decade due to new research developments from the Forbes Wolfe Emerging Tech report published online Jan. 7.
Medical imaging has become a centerpiece of healthcare, with new technologies that bring macroscale features of the body into view. Researchers are investigating ways how nanoparticles and other devices can image disease at the cellular level, reported Forbes.
Some researchers are looking to quantum dots—nano-sized crystals so small they are subject to the laws of quantum mechanics—that can be designed to emit a color to signal the presence of a specific molecule. Since quantum dots can also carry other molecules on their surfaces, they could potentially not only track down and illuminate diseased cells, but also deliver medicine to localized areas, according to researchers.
A challenge to the utilization of quantum dots is that the majority are made from toxic materials like cadmium and lead. Finding a way to make the dots biocompatible for in vivo imaging will be the crucial step in getting the technology out of the lab and into a clinical setting, Forbes reported.
Additionally, a molecular tag that binds to immune cells for PET imaging, could replace conventional technologies for imaging immune systems; however the technique has only been successfully demonstrated in mice, according to Forbes. Another team of researchers have designed a fluorescent tag that only lights up once it has bound itself to the target molecule. They used their tag in mice and were able to see breast cancer cells that had spread to their lungs.
Forbes reported that the “holy grail” of molecular imaging would be the development of nanoparticles that can “infiltrate the body, find their target cells, illuminate those cells and deliver drugs in one fell swoop.”