A hybrid nanoplatform designed by researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) allows integrating three types of molecular medical imaging — nuclear magnetic resonance (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) and optical image by fluorescence (OI)— to search and diagnose a solid tumor.
The result of this study, directed by Marco Filice, was published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. It represents an advance in the field of medical diagnosis; since it allows, in a single session and with a single contrast medium, obtaining a more precise and specific result, with better resolution, sensitivity and ability to penetrate tissues.
“There is no single modality of molecular imaging that provides a perfect diagnosis. Our nanoplatform, designed based on the concept of multimodal molecular imaging, is able to bypass the intrinsic limitations of each individual image modality while maximizing its advantages,” said Filice, researcher the Department of Chemistry in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the UCM and main responsible of the work.
So far, the design of this platform has been focused in solid cancers like sarcomas. However, considering that the proposed nanoplatform is flexible to be modified, it will be possible to expand the detection of more types of cancers, Filice said.
In addition to the UCM, the study includes the participation of Carlos III National Center for Cardiovascular Research, the Biomedical Research Center in Network for Respiratory Diseases (CIBERES), the Center for Cooperative Research in Biomaterials and the Basque Foundation for Science (IKERBASQUE).
Double sided nanoparticles, iron and gold
Like the Roman god Janus, to whom the nanoparticles owe their name, these “present two opposite faces, one of iron oxide embedded in a silica matrix that serves as a contrast medium to promote MRI and another of gold to allow CT,” explains Alfredo Sánchez, researcher of the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the UCM and first author of the work.
In addition, a molecular probe installed specifically in the auroral zone promotes the optical image by fluorescence, while a selective peptide for overexpressed receptors in tumors (sequence RGD) and well oriented on the siliceous surface that surrounds the iron oxide nanoparticle is the responsible for identifying the tumor, ultimately promoting the directionality and vehiculization of the nanoplatform to its target.
After the synthesis of the nanoparticles and the subsequent verification of their characteristics and toxicity, the team of researchers proceeded to apply them in mouse models of fibrosarcoma, “achieving remarkable image results in each applied modality,” said Filice.
Although the journey to transfer these experiments to humans is long, this research shows that personalized therapeutic treatment “is beginning to be a concrete possibility, thanks to nanotechnology and biotechnology,” concludes Filice.