Nano-diamonds Can Help Detect Cancer

Posted: Oct 12 2015, 2:14am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 12 2015, 10:34pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Nano-diamonds Can Help Detect Cancer
This is a photo of nano-diamonds using an optical microscope. The purpose is to characterize the size of nano-diamonds. Photo Credit: Ewa Rej, the University of Sydney

Diamonds can help identify early stage cancer before it becomes threatening to life.

A new, unique way has been devised to identify early stage cancer. Physicists from the University of Sydney used a synthetic version of precious stones during Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans and found it successful in detecting the presence of cancerous tumors. 

David Reilly, a professor from the School of Physics, explains how Nano-diamonds can help find cancer in earliest stage. Nano-diamonds’ size is of the scale of 4-5 nanometers. They are mostly found inside meteorites but can be produced artificially as well such as with the impact of an explosion.

Nano-diamonds have enormous beneficial properties and they have already been utilized in biomedical engineering as a way to transport drugs in the body, jaws and teeth related surgeries and blood testing.

“We know nano diamonds were of interest of delivering drugs during chemotherapy because they are largely non-toxic and non-reactive. We thought we could build on these non toxic properties realizing that diamonds have magnetic characteristics enabling them to act as beacons in MRIs. We effectively turned a pharmaceutical problem into a physics problem,” said Reilly.

Professor Reilly and his colleagues concentrated on hyperpolarizing nano-diamonds in this project. Hyperpolarzing is a process of aligning atoms inside a diamond so it can create a warning or signal detectable by MRI scanner.

“By attaching hyperpolarized diamonds to molecules targeting cancers the technique can allow tracking of the molecules’ movement in the body,” Ewa Rej, lead author of the study, said.

Professor Reilly is considering it as a milestone in detecting cancer and treating it on time before it turns into something enormous and uncontrollable. “This is a great example of how quantum physics research tackles real-world problems, in this case opening the way for us to image and target cancers long before they become life-threatening,” Reilly said.

The study was published in Nature.

Science is making progress in the war on cancer, but it takes a very long time. For cancer patients this is a frustrating reality.

Why is finding a cure for cancer taking so long? "A major reason lies in the fact that cancer is not one disease, but many. Each tissue has its own unique progenitor cells, and each tissue uses only a subset of the genes we inherit from our parents; each tissue is exposed to environmental insults differently. We are just beginning to understand the interplay of all these factors in the origin of the many forms of cancer. Understanding these issues will ultimately allow us to optimize the treatment approach to each patient’s disease," said Dr. Thompson, President and CEO of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York in an WSJ article earlier this year.

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The Author

Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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