Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Lighting up tumors


A fluorescent nanoprobe could become a universal, noninvasive method to identify and monitor tumors

A*STAR researchers have developed a hybrid metal–polymer nanoparticle that lights up in the acidic environment surrounding tumor cells[1]. Nonspecific probes that can identify any kind of tumor are extremely useful for monitoring the location and spread of cancer and the effects of treatment, as well as aiding initial diagnosis.

Intravenous administration of a hybrid metal–polymer nanoprobe causes tumor tissue to fluoresce.

© 2014 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

Cancerous tumors typically have lower than normal pH levels, which correspond to increased acidity both inside the cells and within the extracellular microenvironment surrounding the cells. This simple difference between tumor cells and normal cells has led several research groups to develop probes that can detect the low pH of tumors using optical imaging, magnetic resonance and positron emission tomography.

Most of these probes, however, target the intracellular pH, which requires the probes to enter the cells in order to work. A greater challenge has been to detect the difference in extracellular pH between healthy tissue and tumor tissue as the pH difference is smaller. Success would mean that the probes are not required to enter the cells.

“Our aim is to address the challenge of illuminating tumors universally,” says Bin Liu from the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering. Liu’s team, together with colleagues from the National University of Singapore, based their new probe on polymers that self-assemble on gold nanoparticles. The resulting hybrid structure is not fluorescent at normal physiological pH values: instead acidic conditions similar to those around tumor cells of approximately pH 6.5 alter chemical groups on the surface of the probes and switch on their fluorescence.

After validating the switching mechanism in pH-controlled solutions, the researchers tested the probes using cultured cells and also in tumor-bearing mice illuminated under bright light. Twenty-four hours after injection into the mice, obvious and clear fluorescence was seen only from tumor-bearing tissue, using either whole-body imaging or examination of removed organs (see image). The ability to observe the fluorescence of tumors using noninvasive whole-body examination of living mice indicates the potential of the nanoprobes for use in clinical situations with human patients.

“Our probes have so far proved to be biocompatible, which will be crucial for biomedical applications,” says Liu. “We now plan to check further for any toxicity issues and assess the biological distribution and pharmacological profile of the probes before hopefully moving on to clinical trials,” she adds. This is the latest of several recent advances in nanoscale medical technology from Liu’s group.

[1] Yuan, Y., Ding, D., Li, K., Liu, J. & Liu, B. Tumor-responsive fluorescent light-up probe based on a gold nanoparticle/conjugated polyelectrolyte hybrid. Small 10, 1967–1975 (2014).

Associated links
A*STAR article

A*STAR Research | ResearchSEA
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>