A big challenge to treating cancer is targeting chemotherapies to the right place: how can we be sure a drug hits just the spot? Here, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses the magnetic properties of water molecules to map out the internal organs of a mouse (its tissues appear black, outlined in white). MRI is a widely used technology, but here it’s been taken a step further: tiny beads of silicon have been hyperpolarised, boosting their magnetic signal and making them visible under MRI. Five million times smaller than fleeing criminals captured on thermal vision cameras, the MRI follows the flow of the nanoparticles (red), from their point of injection (blue circle, left) until they settle minutes later in part of the mouse’s intestines (right hand picture). Using this visual technique on nanoparticles loaded with drugs might allow tumours to be better targeted, while watching the effects in real time.
Written by John Ankers