Not just a girl's best friend?
Rebecca McCarthy - 10/13/2015
A photo of nano-diamonds taken with an optical microscope. Photo by Ewa Rej, The University Of Sydney
Diamonds, it turns out, aren’t just a girl’s best friend. They may be beneficial for patients of either sex if they're suffering from a potentially lethal illness.
Australian scientists have used diamonds to turn a pharmaceutical problem into a physics problem. They’ve determined how to identify beginning cancer tumors before they grow into something life-threatening. They have done so using diamonds.
Published on October 9 in Nature Communications, a paper, which details findings from a team in the University of Sydney’s School of Physics, shows that diamonds can help identify early-stage cancers. Professor David Reilly and his researchers used synthetic, nano-diamonds to light up the cancers in MRI scans.
Nanotechnology involves the ability to see and to control individual atoms and molecules. There are about 100,000 nanometers in the diameter of a human hair.
It’s not ground-breaking to use tailored chemicals to target cancerous tumors. But, without a biopsy, it’s hard for scientists to determine where, exactly, the chemicals go and whether the cancer has taken up the treatment. Dr. Reilly’s research team hyperpolarized microscopic diamonds, which amounts to altering the nuclear spin of the carbon atoms inside them to create a signal that an MRI scanner can detect.
"By attaching hyperpolarized diamonds to molecules targeting cancers, the technique can allow tracking of the molecules' movement in the body," says Ewa Rej, lead author of the published paper. The paper is Hyperpolarized Nanodiamond with Long Spin Relaxation Times, and the research was done by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems at the University’s School of Physics.