Scientists from Brown University has created the smallest iron oxide nanoparticles to date for cancer detection by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the university announced Tuesday.
The research team created peptide-coated iron oxide nanoparticles about 8.4 nanometers in overall diameter. Then they injected the particles into mice and successfully tested their ability to locate a brain tumor cell called U87MG.
The magnetic nanoparticles operate like tiny guided missiles, seeking and attaching themselves to malignant tumor cells. Once they bind, the particles emit stronger signals that MRI scans can detect.
The results have been published online this week in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Nanoparticles are important in MRI detection because they enhance what scientists refer to as the "contrast" between the background, such as water molecules in the body, and a solid mass, such as a tumor.
They plan to test the particle's ability to bind with other tumor cells in further animal experiments.