New technology could help image tumor hypoxia

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The development of new light-emitting biomaterial at the University of Virginia, reported in a study in the current on-line edition of the journal Nature Materials, could simplify the imaging of oxygen-deficient areas of tumors.

The material is an oxygen nanosensor that is coupled with a light-emitting dye that is both phosphorescent and fluorescent, with a biopolymer.

According to Guoqing Zhang, MD, of the University of Virginia, and colleagues, hypoxia, or the lack of a sufficient amount of oxygen in tumors, can be a major source of resistance to radiation and chemotherapy treatments, and can result in a greater degree of malignancy. The new technology could help researchers better characterize how hypoxia influences tumor growth and treatment response and devise treatments to eliminate hypoxia.

Because hypoxia also is linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes, the technology could have applications in other areas of medicine, according to the researchers.