Self-assembling nanoparticles developed by researchers at Imperial College London could help doctors diagnose cancer earlier. A special protein coating increases the effectiveness of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) by enabling the particles to home in on receptors found in malignant cells. Interaction between the particle and the cancer causes the protein to be shed, triggering a self-assembly process that results in a bigger element that is more easily picked up on scans.
"By improving the sensitivity of an MRI examination, our aim is to help doctors spot something that might be cancerous much more quickly," says Imperial College's Professor Nicholas Long. "This would enable patients to receive effective treatment sooner, which would hopefully improve survival rates."