CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 1 (UPI) -- A new technique devised by Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers might one day help physicians detect and treat tumors.
The research, which is just moving into animal testing, involves injecting tiny nanoparticles made of iron oxide into the body, where they flow through the bloodstream and enter tumors.
Solid tumors must form new blood vessels to grow. But because the growth is so rapid in cancerous tumors, there are gaps in the endothelial cells that line the inside of the blood vessels. The nanoparticles can slip through those gaps to enter the tumors.
Once inside the tumor, the nanoparticles can be triggered to group together by a mechanism designed by the MIT engineers and those nanoparticle clumps are too big to back out of the gaps and allow detection by magnetic resonance imaging.
The technique initially is being used to study breast tumors, but it might eventually be used in many different types of cancers.
The work appears in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.