The particles dubbed nanobialys are being considered as a significant addition to the stock of diagnostic and disease-fighting nanoparticles developed by researchers in the Consortium for Translational Research in Advanced Imaging and Nanomedicine (C-TRAIN) at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The scientists behind this work have revealed that the nanobialys resemble tiny versions of the flat, onion-topped rolls popular in New York City.
They say that the nanobialys' appealing shape was a natural result of the manufacturing process.
The researchers say that the nanobialys may provide an alternative to the gadolinium-containing nanoparticles, a common contrast agent for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans that may be harmful to some patients with severe kidney disease.
"The nanobialys contain manganese instead of gadolinium. Manganese is an element found naturally in the body. In addition, the manganese in the nanobialys is tied up so it stays with the particles, making them very safe," says first author Dr. Dipanjan Pan, research instructor in medicine in the Cardiovascular Division.
The researchers say that the bulk of a nanobialy is a synthetic polymer that can accept a variety of medical, imaging or targeting components.
In the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers report that targeted manganese-carrying nanobialys readily attached themselves to fibrin molecules, which are found in atherosclerotic plaques and blood clots.
Laboratory-made clots later glowed brightly in MRI scans, they say.
The researchers also say that the nanobialys can carry both water-soluble and insoluble drugs.
"When we looked at the particles with an electron microscope, we saw they are round and flat, with a dimple in the centre, like red blood cells, but also a little irregular, like bagels. I came across the word bialy, which is a Polish roll like a bagel without a hole that can be made with different toppings. So I called the particles nanobialys," said Pan, who is a research instructor in medicine, played a leading role in the creation of nanobialys and chose the particles' name.
The researchers have plans to continue adapting the nanobialys for a variety of medicinal applications, and work to develop other types of nanoparticles so that they can supply a wide range of medical needs.