Measuring nanoparticles

A technique that can determine the concentration of nanomaterials in living tissue has been licensed by Texas University, Austin, to Houston-based nanoTox.

The technique comes from the laboratory of Dr James Tunnell, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering.

The current method for measuring nanoparticles at diagnostic or therapeutic concentrations in tissue typically involves the administration of radioisotopes or invasive procedures requiring a biopsy followed by time-consuming and costly examination using specialised forms of electron microscopy, X-ray analysis or nuclear chemical analysis in some cases.

Tunnell’s system, on the other hand, uses non-invasive optical spectroscopy to determine whether the particles remain in tissue or have been flushed out.

‘Dr Tunnell has created a very minimally invasive technique to detect nanoparticles in tissue relatively simply and economically,’ said Greg King, vice-president and chief operating officer of nanoTox.

The licence grants nanoTox exclusive worldwide rights to the technique, including the development of medical diagnostic systems based upon it. The company also plans to further develop the technology for other uses such as the nanotechnology risk-assessment market.

In developing safe and effective products based on nanomaterials, it is important to know what becomes of nanoparticles applied or administered to the body.

Nanoparticles designed to concentrate in certain locations such as tumour tissue for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes, for example, must not accumulate in other healthy tissues where they might cause harm such as the brain, heart, liver or kidneys. So it is important to test whether that is indeed the case.