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"Nanojuice" Can Help Diagnose Celiac's Disease, Other Gastronomical Ailments

Jul 07, 2014 07:05 AM EDT

Researchers are developing a new, safe technique of examining intestines using nanoparticles.

Humans' small intestine is about 23 feet long and 1 inch thick. It is located between the stomach and the large intestine and is extremely difficult to examine. The new technique, being developed by researchers at the University at Buffalo, uses nanoparticles and lasers to image the organ.

The method will help diagnose irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, Crohn's disease and other gastrointestinal illnesses, researchers said.

The team tested the method on mice models. Researchers plan to refine the technique to suit human subjects in the clinical trials.

Researchers say that the nanojuice - nanoparticles suspended in a liquid - can help doctors get a better picture of the disease. The nanojuice is administered orally. Once the nanoparticles reach the intestines, doctors can strike the particles with a harmless laser. The technique provides real-time view of the intestine.

"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, according to a news release. "Better imaging will improve our understanding of these diseases and allow doctors to more effectively care for people suffering from them."

Currently, doctors ask patients to drink thick liquid called barium during small intestine examination. Doctors then use X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasounds to assess the organ. However, these methods rarely provide enough information about the problem.

Researchers earlier tested the effectiveness of naphthalcyanines. These chemicals provided good contrasts in the imaging process. However, naphthalcyanines can't be dispersed in liquids and can be absorbed by the blood stream, making them unfit for use in the human body.

The team then came across "nanonaps," which proved to be the ideal candidate for use in small intestine imaging. These particles are safe and are good biological contrast agents.

The study is published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

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