Trying to see inside living things is a big challenge for biologists. Lots of researchers use fluorescent ‘flags’ that label different things inside the body, spying on them with a special microscope that picks up fluorescence. But all living tissues are naturally fluorescent, which makes it difficult to see exactly what’s going on. One solution comes in the form of tiny light-emitting nanoparticles that target specific organs, literally lighting them up. Here, red nanoparticles were injected into a mouse. After opening the animal up, it’s revealed that they’ve homed in on the liver, and lymph glands in the groin, skin, neck and ‘armpits’. Using the same principle the researchers can aim their nanoparticles at tumours, lighting them up for easy detection inside living animals. The next step is to make different coloured nanoparticles that can be targeted to a range of tissues, shining a light on how the body works.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.