Tiny gold probes give scientists a sense of how disease develops

Mar 28, 2010

Tiny chemical sensors implanted into patients could help diagnose disease and track its progress, following a development by scientists.

Researchers have developed tiny probes comprising gold-coated particles. These can be inserted into cells, enabling diseases to be detected and monitored remotely using light from a laser.

Once the probe is inside a cell, shone on to it is absorbed then re-emitted, causing nearby proteins in the cell to vibrate according to their shape.

Because molecules change shape as disease progresses, they give rise to different vibrational frequencies. Scientists can measure and interpret these vibrations, to understand how the cell is responding to disease.

Gold is used to coat the sensor because it is an unreactive metal, preventing the body from rejecting the implant. The laser technique is highly sensitive, fast and uses a low-power laser.

Scientists say the probes could be a useful tool to learn more about diseases at a very small scale, by observing how molecules interact. Further studies will look at diseases linked to the immune system in the first instance, but researchers say the technique has potential to help doctors diagnose and monitor a range of conditions.

Dr Colin Campbell, who led the research, said: "By creating a sensor that can safely be implanted into tissue and combining this with a sensitive light-measurement technique, we have developed a useful device that will help diagnose and track disease in patients."

The research, funded by the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance, EaSTChem and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, was published in the journals , the Journal of and ACSNano.

Explore further: 'Stealth' nanoparticles could improve cancer vaccines

Provided by University of Edinburgh

4.5 /5 (2 votes)

Related Stories

Life under the laser

Aug 22, 2008

Researchers at The University of Nottingham have developed a unique technology that will allow scientists to look at microscopic activity within the body's chemical messenger system for the very first time, live as it happens.

Catching cancer's spread by watching hemoglobin

Apr 30, 2007

In an advance that can potentially assist cancer diagnosis, a new optical technique provides high-resolution, three-dimensional images of blood vessels by taking advantage of the natural multiple-photon-absorbing properties ...

MIT probe may help untangle cells' signaling pathways

Jun 27, 2008

MIT researchers have designed a new type of probe that can image thousands of interactions between proteins inside a living cell, giving them a tool to untangle the web of signaling pathways that control most of a cell's ...

'Nanobubbles' kill cancer cells

Feb 04, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Using lasers and nanoparticles, scientists at Rice University have discovered a new technique for singling out individual diseased cells and destroying them with tiny explosions. The scientists used lasers ...

Recommended for you

'Stealth' nanoparticles could improve cancer vaccines

19 hours ago

Cancer vaccines have recently emerged as a promising approach for killing tumor cells before they spread. But so far, most clinical candidates haven't worked that well. Now, scientists have developed a new ...

Nanoparticles accumulate quickly in wetland sediment

19 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A Duke University team has found that nanoparticles called single-walled carbon nanotubes accumulate quickly in the bottom sediments of an experimental wetland setting, an action they say could ...

User comments : 0