Hybrid gold-silica nanoparticles, visible under three types of imaging modalities was developed by an international team of researchers from UK, France and United States.
Nanoparticles were built to deliver chemo and photothermal therapy. Researchers believed that compared to liposomal drug carriers, the new nanoparticles would have a drastically greater ability to reach their intended targets.
In addition to bringing chemical compounds along, the nanoparticles can be made to heat up using an external laser, killing nearby tumor cells.
The nanoparticles consist of a shell made out of mesoporous silica that has gold quantum dots seeded throughout. They can be tracked throughout the body using MRI, near-infrared fluorescence, and photoacoustic imaging.
Gold quantum dots were suitable for clinical applications, but when released on their own they tend to bunch together and cause problems. The functionality of these quantum dots is maintained when attached to a larger particle. This allows the new nanoparticles to enter cells without being toxic to them.
The heating mechanism can be used for imaging since temperature changes push the gold quantum dots apart, which create ultrasound waves in the process. Gold nanoparticles smaller than 2 nanometers are magnetic and can be seen under MRI.