In a new research, scientists claim to have identified a novel way to detect cancers at an early stage with the help of diamonds; that is before the cancer becomes life threatening.
The nanoscale, synthetic version of the diamond can become more precious in identifying the cancer at the stage of conducting an MRI.
These nano diamonds have been earlier clinically recommended by the scientists for use as chemicals in chemotherapy as they are non toxic and non invasive in nature.
Further converting this pharmaceutical idea into a physics solution, the scientists have made this new MRI-use recommendation as it allows the magnetic characteristics of diamonds to help identify early stages of cancer.
With this important observation, the next stage is to put this method for clinical trial on animals.
Targeting cancers with tailored chemicals is not new but scientists struggle to detect where these chemicals go since, short of a biopsy, there are few ways to see if a treatment has been taken-up by a cancer.
Led by Professor David Reilly from the School of Physics, researchers investigated how nanoscale diamonds could help identify cancers in their earliest stages.
“We knew nano diamonds were of interest for delivering drugs during chemotherapy because they are largely non-toxic and non-reactive,” said Reilly.
“We thought we could build on these non-toxic properties realising that diamonds have magnetic characteristics enabling them to act as beacons in MRIs. We effectively turned a pharmaceutical problem into a physics problem,” he said.
Reilly’s team turned its attention to hyperpolarising nano-diamonds, a process of aligning atoms inside a diamond so they create a signal detectable by an MRI scanner.
“By attaching hyperpolarised diamonds to molecules targeting cancers the technique can allow tracking of the molecules’ movement in the body,” said Ewa Rej, lead author of the research paper published in the journal Nature Communications.
“This is a great example of how quantum physics research tackles real-world problems, in this case opening the way for us to image and target cancers long before they become life-threatening,” said Reilly.