December 15, 2008

Researchers Create Nanotechnology To Detect Poison In Cells

U.S. researchers have created a way to detect small amounts of cancer-causing poisons inside living cells.

The research was reported on Sunday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology and offers a new way to track chemicals within the body.

"We made a very small nanosensor that can detect cancer-causing molecules or important therapeutic drugs inside of a single living cell," said Michael Strano of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who worked on the study.

"It's much smaller than a living cell in your body," Strano said. "It's so small it can be placed into environments that aren't accessible with larger sensors."

According to Strano, the sensors are made of thin filaments of carbon molecules called carbon nanotubes.

Nanomaterials, which are thousands of times smaller than the width of human hair, have become the primary focus of many research teams who believe the new technology can be used to deliver drugs into the body or to better diagnose disease.

Strano's team created their sensors by wrapping carbon nanotubes with DNA, which provides a fastening place for DNA-damaging agents within cells.

The nanotubes then give off a fluorescent light that can be detected in the near-infrared light spectrum.

The light sensors change when DNA interacts with the nanotubes.

"It's a way of fingerprinting chemistry," said Strano.

According to Strano, the sensors can be safely injected in cells because they are coated in DNA.

"Eventually the cell eats the protein off the coating and it essentially spits it out," he added.

Strano believes the most immediate use of the technology will be to study the effects of chemicals within the body, but believes it could eventually provide a new way to image the human body.

Carbon Nanotube Image Courtesy Swiss Nanoscience Institute


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