Emory Report
January 14, 2008
Volume 60, Number 15

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January 14, 2008
Gold nanoparticles detect cancer

By quinn eastman

Using tiny gold particles embedded with dyes, researchers at Emory and Georgia Tech can identify tumors under the skin of a living animal. The tools may allow doctors to detect and diagnose cancer earlier and less invasively.

“With these probes, it will be possible to detect cancer much earlier, at the microscopic level,” said Dong Moon Shin, associate director of Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute.

Studded with antibody fragments that bind cancer cells, the gold particles grab onto tumors after their injection into a mouse. When illuminated with a laser beam, the particles send back a signal that is specific to the dye.

Biomedical engineering professor Shuming Nie calls them “a new class of nanotechnology agents for tumor targeting and imaging.”

The gold “nanoparticles” are about 150 times smaller than a typical human cell. Nie and his colleagues describe the particles’ properties in the Jan. 1 issue of Nature Biotechnology.

The laser can detect tumors under the skin at a depth of 1 cm to 2 cm. In addition, a dye’s unique signal means several probes could be used at once to profile a tumor, Nie said.

Eventually, the gold particles could also be used to selectively deliver drugs to cancer cells, he said.

For more cancer discoveries from Emory scientists, visit www.whsc.emory.edu.