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New imaging technology at Joslin shown to detect early signs of type 1 diabetes

, and Ralph Weissleder, M.D., Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital, both in Boston. Dr. Denis, a former Joslin research fellow, now works at the BSRC Alexander Fleming Institute of Immunology in Greece. The Joslin and MGH researchers demonstrated the effectiveness of using this new imaging technology to detect the earliest stages of type 1 diabetes in a mouse model.

How the technology works

The new imaging technology uses tiny probes called long-circulating magnetofluorescent nanoparticles (CMFN). These particles contain magnetic nanocrystals of iron oxide, which are very easily detected by MRI. After being injected intravenously, CMFN travels throughout the body, including through the tiny blood vessels of the pancreas. If these vessels have started to become permeable as a result of islet inflammation, more CMFN tends to leak out and collect in the surrounding tissue, as can be seen on the MRI. This technique allows researchers to observe this early inflammatory process over time. "Thus, we have the means to non-invasively monitor the initiation and progression of insulitis in mouse models of type 1 diabetes in vivo and in real time," Dr. Mathis comments.

The researchers say that this new imaging process may prove an invaluable aid in helping researchers and clinicians to spot early insulitis and to monitor how it changes, during the development of disease and after experimental or therapeutic interventions aimed at stopping its progression. Further, they point out that the technique already has been used safely and effectively by the MGH group in human clinical trials to detect the spread of prostate cancer to the lymph nodes. "Given the known safety of magnetic nanoparticles in humans, the technology might someday be used in individuals who are genetically at risk for diabetes to detect this autoimmune process in its earliest stages," Dr. Benoist suggests.


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1-Sep-2004


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