Nanoparticles Improve Ultrasound Sensitivity for Cancer Detection

May 8, 2006

Targeted nanoparticles may eventually help physicians detect the very earliest stages of cancer using readily available ultrasound equipment, a new study from investigators at The Ohio State University suggests. The results of this study, published in the journal Physics in Medicine and Biology, show that silica nanoparticles have a marked effect on boosting reflection of ultrasonic energy as it passes through the body.

In laboratory experiments on mice, scientists found that silica nanoparticles injected into the animals improved the resulting images. This study is one of the first reports showing that ultrasound can detect these tiny particles when they are inside the body, said Thomas Rosol, D.V.M., Ph.D., who along with Jun Liu, Ph.D., led the research team.

“Given their tiny size, nobody thought it would be possible for ultrasound to detect nanoparticles,” he said.

It turns out that not only can ultrasound waves sense nanoparticles, but the particles can brighten the resulting image. One day, those bright spots may indicate that a few cells in the area may be on the verge of mutating and growing out of control.

“The long-term goal is to use this technology to improve our ability to identify very early cancers and other diseases,” said Liu. “We ultimately want to identify disease at its cellular level, at its very earliest stage.”

Rosol said that Liu and her team are working on creating biodegradable nanoparticles. For the purposes of this study, however, the researchers wanted to use a hard substance, silica, to see if their idea would work. The strongest ultrasound signals are those produced when sound waves bounce off a hard surface. While not biodegradable, the nanoparticles used in the study were biologically inert.

The researchers took ultrasound images of the animals' livers every five minutes for 90 minutes after the injection. The nanoparticles had accumulated in the animals' livers. Another future step for this work is to label nanoparticles tumor-targeting molecules.

“The liver takes up foreign substances in the body, so it's not surprising that that's where we saw the particles,” Rosol said. “But we ultimately want to be able to make these particles go to the mammary glands or other tissues we're interested in.”

The ultrasound images grew brighter over the 90-minute period. The researchers compared these images to those from a group of control mice injected with a saline solution. There was no change in ultrasound image brightness in the control mice after that injection.

This work, which was supported in part by the National Cancer Institute, is detailed in a paper titled, “Nanoparticles as image enhancing agents for ultrasonography.” An abstract of this paper is available through PubMed.

Source: National Cancer Institute

Explore further: Have your drug nano-delivered via microbubble

Related Stories

Have your drug nano-delivered via microbubble

October 12, 2015

"Colloidal delivery system" and "nanoparticle" are probably not terms you find yourself using in day-to-day interactions, but for UC's Yoonjee Park, assistant professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science biomedical ...

New approach to mammograms could improve reliability

September 16, 2015

Detecting breast cancer in women with dense mammary tissues could become more reliable with a new mammogram procedure that researchers have now tested in pre-clinical studies of mice. In their report in the journal ACS Nano, ...

Gold Nanobeacons Detect Sentinel Lymph Nodes

March 25, 2010

( -- Virtually every patient diagnosed with breast cancer or melanoma undergoes lymph node biopsy to determine if their cancer has begun spreading in the body. Taking this biopsy involves an invasive and uncomfortable ...

Nanovectors combine cancer imaging and therapy

February 9, 2015

Researchers at Imperial College London and the Laboratoire de chimie de la matière condensée de Paris (CNRS/Collège de France/UPMC) have designed and developed hybrid gold-silica nanoparticles, which are turning out to ...

Recommended for you

Physicists develop new technique to fathom 'smart' materials

November 26, 2015

Physicists from the FOM Foundation and Leiden University have found a way to better understand the properties of manmade 'smart' materials. Their method reveals how stacked layers in such a material work together to bring ...

Mathematicians identify limits to heat flow at the nanoscale

November 24, 2015

How much heat can two bodies exchange without touching? For over a century, scientists have been able to answer this question for virtually any pair of objects in the macroscopic world, from the rate at which a campfire can ...

New sensor sends electronic signal when estrogen is detected

November 24, 2015

Estrogen is a tiny molecule, but it can have big effects on humans and other animals. Estrogen is one of the main hormones that regulates the female reproductive system - it can be monitored to track human fertility and is ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.