Promising multifunctional nanoparticles

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Manjula Puthenedam, PhD
Associate Editor

Nanoparticles can serve as diagnostic and targeted cancer therapy agents as well as dual modality molecular imaging contrast agents. Even though much of the nanoparticle research remains at a preclinical stage, the potential for enhancing disease diagnosis, treatment and developing novel multimodal molecular imaging contrast agents in clinical settings is considerable.

In a study published in the journal Small, researchers from University of Illinois have delivered nanoparticles called quantum dots for simultaneous imaging and manipulation in the nucleus. The quantum dots were delivered into the nucleus of living HeLa cells and the target cell was imaged using fluorescence microscopy. The team hopes to continue to refine the nanoneedle, both as an electrode and as a molecular delivery system to deliver DNA fragments, proteins and enzymes.

In another feature, published in the Journal of American Chemical Society, preclinical studies with nanoparticles agents in MBT2 cell line and in tumor-bearing mice show promise in developing new CT/MRI dual modality molecular imaging contrast agents. The iron-platinum alloy (FePt) nanoparticles used by researchers from National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan, in this study indicated the potential of FePt nanoparticles to serve as novel multimodal molecular imaging contrast agents in clinical settings.

Recognizing the importance of nanotechnology, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recently awarded $65 million to renew its Programs for Nanotechnology Research to detect and deliver treatments for heart, lung and blood diseases. The projects funded ranged from developing nanomaterials to diagnose and treat cardiovascular diseases, acute lung diseases to delivering therapeutics to atherosclerotic plaque.

In another project funded by the National Cancer Institute, researchers from Rice University's Laboratory for Nanophotonics are preparing to test a combined approach for diagnosing and treating pancreatic cancer with a specially engineered nanoparticle in mice. The nanoparticles also combine a fluorescence imaging dye with an active marker for MRI which can work as imaging agents in both MRI scans and in fluorescent optical scans.

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Manjula Puthenedam, PhD