“Nanojuice” could improve how doctors examine the small intestine.
Located deep in the human gut, the small intestine is not easy to examine. X-rays, MRIs and ultrasound images provide snapshots but each suffers from its own limitations.
University at Buffalo researchers are developing a new imaging technique involving nanoparticles suspended in liquid to form “nanojuice” that patients would drink. Upon reaching the small intestine, doctors would strike the nanoparticles with a harmless laser light, providing an unparalleled, non-invasive, real-time view of the organ.
Described July 6 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the advancement could help doctors better identify, understand and treat gastrointestinal ailments.
“Conventional imaging methods show the organ and blockages, but this method allows you to see how the small intestine operates in real time,” said corresponding author Jonathan Lovell, PhD, UB assistant professor of biomedical engineering. “Better imaging will improve our understanding of these diseases and allow doctors to more effectively care for people suffering from them.”
In laboratory experiments performed with mice, the researchers administered the nanojuice orally. They then used photoacoustic tomography (PAT), which is pulsed laser lights that generate pressure waves that, when measured, provide a real-time and more nuanced view of the small intestine.
The researchers plan to continue to refine the technique for human trials, and move into other areas of the gastrointestinal tract.