Nanocomposite May Help Surgeons

Photo: MRI of a brain tumor

Scientists are experimenting with different nanoparticles that they hope may one day be injected into the blood of patients and help surgeons remove lethal brain tumors known as glioblastomas.

Now, researchers reported that they have manufactured a small particle called a nanocomposite that is both magnetic and fluorescent. The strategy is to combine two particles that contain different properties to make one particle with multiple properties. These nanocomposites measure less than twenty nanometers in size (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter). One sheet of paper, for example, is about 100,000 nanometers thick.

It is normally difficult to combine particles like these, a process known as doping. The key was that the synthesis was done at pretty high temperatures – about 350 degrees Celsius.

The magnetic nanoparticles emphasize color contrasts within MRIs, allowing doctors to see potential or existing cancerous tumors before surgery. The fluorescent nanoparticles can change the color that the tumor appears in the brain when seen under a special light. Neurological surgeons could benefit from a multi-functional particle that would allow them to better see the brain tumor with an MRI before surgery, and then see it physically during surgery, the researchers argue.

The study provided proof that a particle with dual properties can be formed, according to the scientists. However, these multi-functional particles can't be used for animal or human testing because the fluorescent particle, cadmium telluride, is toxic. "We're currently working on an alternative fluorescent particle which is composed of carbon. This will eliminate the complications that arise with ingesting the cadmium telluride particles," researcher Jessica Winter said.; Source: Ohio State University