Polymer nanoagents that can ‘light up’ tiny areas of diseased tissues that conventional methods fail to detect, have been created by a research team led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore)
The nanoagents, known as ‘semiconductor polymer nanoparticles’ (SPNs), can store light energy from sources such as sunlight, near-infrared light or even light from mobile phones, and then emit long-lasting ‘afterglow light’.
The research team from NTU Singapore tailored highly sensitive SPNs to track down and lock on to diseased tissues in the body such as cancerous cells, sending back near-infrared signals which can be received and interpreted by standard imaging equipment.
Scientists and doctors now have more time to look at test results, as the nanoagents continue self-illuminating and their light intensity decreases by half only after six minutes.
Alternatively, if stored at -20 degree Celsius, the sample will maintain its results for a month, making it convenient for other diagnostic experts to interpret and review the results at a later time.
When tested in mice, the method provided results 20 to 120 times more sensitive than current optical imaging methods and 10 times faster in showing up diseased tissues.