Editorial Feature

Nanoparticles for Non-Invasive In Vivo Imaging Techniques

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Early detection of cancer, neurogenerative, and cardiovascular diseases remains the most significant contributor to remedial treatments, as medical science continues to make substantial growth in the treatment of the most major ailments and diseases.

The capability to spot cancerous growths in the body before the cells get multiplied and spread is crucial for efficient intervention measures. Medical technology firms are currently shifting to a new array of nanotechnologies that may help in spotting cancer cells years earlier than present techniques.

Current Constraints

Instead of using extracted tissue samples within the body, present non-invasive in vivo imaging methods usually depend on intravenous or oral dosing of signal amplification agents that help in producing more distinctive and detailed images of infected tissues. Nevertheless, diagnosis of early-stage diseases is usually not so effective because of the following problems:

  • Poor sensitivity of numerous agents implies that they cannot spot trace amounts of the infected tissue
  • More routine and larger doses must be given, or else the agents would degrade
  • Toxicity issues may arise when agents have poor specificity towards the target cells and instead target healthy tissues

Use of Nanotechnology

The use of nanoparticles as new amplification agents is considered to provide several advantages. Specific, site-targeted delivery of drugs and agents could be achieved because of the potential to functionalize polymer-coated nano-shells, gold nanospheres, and dendrimers.

Since these materials are basically small in size, they are easily delivered to the target cells. This should result in lower0dose requirements as well as important signal amplification, offering the potential to spot, for instance, atherosclerotic plaques or primary tumors at a relatively earlier stage of development.

Application

The nanoparticles are later used in combination with established imagining methods like positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT). Companies like Schering AG, Pfizer, and The Dow Chemical Company are engaged in the formulation of nanoparticle agents, facilitating significant developments in molecular imaging.

Victorian Activities

Australia and Victoria have well-known capabilities, both in the advancement of therapeutic and medical diagnostic systems, and in the preparation of new nanoscale particles.

Several teams have already developed significant technologies that will enable the development of next-generation imaging; for instance, the multifunctional polymer particles created by Professor Gareth Forde at Monash University, the encapsulated nanoparticle systems developed by Professor Frank Caruso at the University of Melbourne, and fluorescent nanoparticles (quantum dots) synthesized by Professor Paul Mulvaney.

The significance of these methods has been acknowledged by Nanotechnology Victoria (NanoVic), which is now working to introduce an important initiative in the field of in vivo imaging. Such imaging captures a few of the key current developments and may eventually lead to a commercial product for worldwide markets.

Cardiovascular Disease Diagnosis

For NanoVic, one specific area of focus will be the use of these emerging technologies for diagnosing early-stage cardiovascular disease, which impacted more than 3.7 million Australians in 2004. By 2014, this figure is expected to increase by two-fold. Currently, the government’s expenditure to cover direct costs related to heart failure in Australia alone amounts to about $4 billion per year.

It is expected that diseased blood vessels would be detected in the early stage through the use of bio-functionalized nanospheres loaded with contrast agents. By administrating preventative treatments to patients who are at high risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, the incidence of acute events like heart failure and stroke can be reduced and this would also have a significant effect on related healthcare expenses.

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