Diamonds look good. There is no denying that; but apparently diamonds are also good looking: good at looking for cancer, actually.
No, seriously, a new study has found that the gems used not only for jewelry but also for cutting, polishing, as superconductors, and more, can also be used to detect cancer tumors.
Lead study author Professor David Reilly—from the University of Sydney School of Physics—looked at how nanoscale diamonds might help detect the earliest stages of cancers. He says, “We knew nano diamonds were of interest for delivering drugs during chemotherapy because they are largely non-toxic and non-reactive.”
Furthermore, Prof Reilly notes, “We thought we could build on these non-toxic properties realizing that diamonds have magnetic characteristics enabling them to act as beacons in MRIs. We effectively turned a pharmaceutical problem into a physics problem.”
He also goes on to say, “Having those chemicals target certain types of cancers, bind to certain types of receptors, is something that’s advanced. What we’ve done is now develop that lighthouse to image those things in an MRI, thereby [allowing us to] actually see the cancers light up, without having to open somebody up.”
Furthermore, lead study author Ewa Rej notes that the team focused on hyperpolarising nano-diamonds. This is a process of aligning atoms inside the precious gem in order that they create a signal that can be detectable by an MRI scanner. “By attaching hyperpolarised diamonds to molecules targeting cancers the technique can allow tracking of the molecules’ movement in the body.”
Finally, Professor Reilly concludes, “This is a great example of how quantum physics research tackles real-world problems, in this case opening the way for us to image and target cancers long before they become life-threatening.”
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