University at Buffalo researchers have developed a new imaging technique to examine gut that involves nanoparticles suspended in liquid to form "nanojuice" which would be consumed by patients. The nanojuice upon reaching small intestine would be bombarded with a harmless laser light which gives a real time non invasive view of the organ.
Patients currently drink barium so that doctors can use X-rays or MRI’s to assess the organ. However, these techniques are limited with respect to safety, accessibility and lack of adequate contrast. It is not easy to examine small intestine which is located deep in the human gut. Therefore in order to develop a better imaging technique, the team worked with a family of dyes called naphthalcyanines. These small molecules absorb large portions of light in the near-infrared spectrum; an ideal range for biological contrast agents. They are harmful for the human body because they do not disperse in liquid and therefore can be absorbed from the intestine into the blood stream. To address this problem, scientists formed nanoparticles called "nanonaps" that contain colourful dye molecules and added abilities to disperse in liquid and move safely through the intestine.
In an experiment performed on mice, researchers administered nanojuice orally. They then used photoacoustic tomography (PAT), i.e. pulsed laser lights which generates pressure waves, that when measured provided a real-time and more nuanced view of the small intestine. Scientists are confident that the technique would provide a better alternative for examining small intestines which is the birthplace of diseases like diabetes, thyroid disorders etc.