#weekendusers Nanoparticles for medical diagnosis and therapy


Nanomedicine is steadily becoming a hot topic. A team from the Southern Federal University in Rostov, Russia, will spend the weekend studying colloidal iron-oxide based magnetic nanoparticles of 5 to 40 nanometers in size that could be used for cancer theranostics (i.e. diagnosis and therapy simultaneously).

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Cancer cells die at 40.5 degrees, while healthy cells die at 42 degrees. The tiny gap between these two temperatures can make a big difference, so researchers are focusing in finding ways of heating up cells with extreme precision, leading to the death of tumoral ones.

At the same time, some nanoparticles can prove very useful in diagnosis with their use as a contrast agent in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Today, MRI injects gadolinium as a contrast agent, but this element is harmful for humans. So scientists are trying to find a way of injecting it without allowing it to disperse in the body.

In the Experimental Hutch. From left to right: Mikhail Soldatov, Oleg Polozhentsev and Elena Kushma.

Iron oxide nanoparticles containing Gadolinium (Gd) might play an important role in both the killing of tumoral cells and as a contrast agent and this what the Russian team is researching on ID26. The way they have synthesised the nanoparticles is such that Gd is contained inside and covered with a hydrophillic layer. The idea is that Gd still works as a contrast agent but without spreading inside the blood stream in the form of ion. At the same time, these magnetic nanoparticles could potentially heat up cancer cells with such a precision that they could kill them without damaging healthy cells.

2016-09-30_ID26_SOLDATOV TEAM-18.jpg (Soldatov's team on ID26)

On ID26.

“It is important for us to be able to study these nanoparticles at the ESRF and in particular on the high brilliance ID26 beamline because thanks to its emission spectrometer we can perform high resolution x-ray absorption, which allows us to determine the electronic and local atomic structure with fine details”, explains Professor Alexander Soldatov, director of the International Research Center for Smart Materials in the Southern Federal University. It is also a new way of studying these samples: “X-ray spectroscopic characterisations of magnetic nanoparticles for biomedical applications are not normally performed in their natural colloidal form, but in powder state. We are, instead, studying them in a liquid form, reproducing their ´natural´ state in biological tissues”, he adds.

It is their second visit to the beamline in the framework of the Russian Grant Proposals every time with promising data and they may have more experiments lined up on ID21 in the near future, so watch this space!

Text by Montserrat Capellas Espuny