London, July 28 (ANI): By combining two nanoparticles in one tiny package, University of Washington researchers have created a Swiss Army knife of sorts for medical imaging and therapy.
The multipurpose nanotechnology tool could perform wide range of medical uses - imaging tumours, carrying drugs, delivering pulses of heat.
"This is the first time that a semiconductor and metal nanoparticles have been combined in a way that preserves the function of each individual component," Nature magazine quoted lead author Xiaohu Gao, a UW assistant professor of bioengineering, as saying.
Apart from medical applications, the multifunctional nanoparticles could also be used in energy research, for example in solar cells.
Quantum dots are fluorescent balls of semiconductor material just a few nanometers across, and their unique optical properties cause them to emit light of different colours depending on their size.
The dots are being developed for medical imaging, solar cells and light-emitting diodes.
Glowing gold nanoparticles have recently been developed for delivering drugs, for treating arthritis and for a type of medical imaging that uses infrared light. Gold also reradiates infrared heat and so could be used in medical therapies to cook nearby cells.
But on combination, a quantum dot and a gold nanoparticle lose their individual effects.
The new study has described a manufacturing technique that uses proteins to surround a quantum dot core with a thin gold shell held at 3 nanometers distance, so the two components' optical and electrical fields do not interfere with one another.
The quantum dot likely would be used for fluorescent imaging, while the gold sphere could be used for scattering-based imaging, which works better than fluorescence in some situations, as well as for delivering heat therapy.
The newly developed manufacturing technique is general and could apply to other nanoparticle combinations, said the researchers.
Incorporating gold provides a well-established binding site to attach biological molecules that target particular cells, such as tumour cells.
Gao has said that a gold shell could provide a durable non-toxic container for nanoparticles being used in the body.
The structure is described in a paper published online this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. (ANI)