WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - When it comes to searching out cancer cells, gold may turn out to be a precious metal.
Purdue University researchers have created gold nanoparticles that are capable of identifying marker proteins on breast cancer cells, making the tiny particles a potential tool to better diagnose and treat cancer. The technology would be about three times cheaper than the most common current method and has the potential to provide many times the quantity and quality of data, said Joseph Irudayaraj, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering.
"We hope that this technology will soon play a critical role in early detection and monitoring of breast cancer," said Irudayaraj (pronounced ee-roo-THY'-a-razh), leader of a research team that developed a new method for fabricating the nanoparticles that is published online this month in the journal Analytical Chemistry. "Our goal is to see it in commercial use in about four years."
The gold nanoparticles, or nanorods, are tiny rod-shaped gold particles, even smaller than viruses, which are equipped with antibodies designed to bind to a specific marker on cell surfaces. Researchers analyze these surface markers, proteins on a cell's exterior, because they can contain valuable information about what type of cell they belong to or what state that cell may be in.
"In cancer diagnosis, the ability to accurately detect certain key markers will be very helpful because certain types of cancers have specific surface markers," Irudayaraj said.
In another study published last month in Nano Letters, Irudayaraj showed that the nanorods, when combined with a special imaging technique, were capable of recognizing cancer stem cells by binding to known markers on their exterior. Cancer stem cells are important to detect because they are particularly invasive and more likely than other types of cancer cells to spread, or metastasize, to other organs. These and o
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