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NO.420 07.30.2018

Getting One Step Closer to Curing Alzheimer’s Disease

Photoacoustic imaging technology enables the real-time observation of the extent of the disease spread and its response to drug in the body.


This technology can be used to diagnose and treat diseases and to develop new drugs. In this process, an imaging agent is injected into the body to make visible specific tissues or vessels. This is the same agent (contrast medium) that is injected prior to a CT or an MRI scan.


The research team led by Professor Do-kyung Kim, joined by research teams of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), has developed a significantly improved photoacoustic (a phenomenon that absorbs light to generate heat and sound) body imaging agent. When a photoacoustic imaging medium is injected inside porous silicon nanoparticles that act as containers, the resolution of the resulting images become significantly improved over the images produced by conventional techniques.

Images appear larger and sharper than those seen through previous methods
The outcome of the team research, led by Professor Kim, is published in the online version of , a top-ranking scholarly journal in the field, under the title, “Enhanced Performance of a Molecular Photoacoustic Imaging Agent by Encapsulation in Mesoporous Silicon Nanoparticles.”


Last year, Professor Kim developed a photoluminescent imaging agent that also uses porous silicon nanoparticles. He was the first to confirm that live images of living tissue can be seen in the body when the injected imaging agent is scanned by the two-photon microscopy technique. This article was also published in .


Indocyanine Green (ICG), currently in use, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, it is known to have potential adverse effects such as arterial blockage and toxicity. In addition, as it tends to break down before reaching the targeted organ, a much larger dose than recommended is usually injected to compensate for the loss.

 


Imaging agents: reduce adverse effect and use less
When porous silicon nanoparticles are used, the afore-mentioned problems can be largely avoided with improved effectiveness. Professor Kim summarized the benefits and said, “When the new method is applied, we can avoid the build-up of the imaging agent in the artery as well as the agent breaking down before reaching the targeted area. So, it is safer to use and smaller quantities yield higher quality images.”


Professor Kim then added, “We have also confirmed that the imaging efficiency is approximately 17 times higher. This study is especially meaningful, as it confirms that nanoparticles can be used to perform photoacoustic imaging, and that they are highly effective.”


Porous silicon nanoparticles offer a wide variety of usage. Professor Kim explains, “Porous silicon nanoparticles, depending on how the surface is treated, can be used to deliver drugs customized to each disease, tissue, and patient.”

 


 

Continue joint research that will contribute to genetic disease diagnosis and treatment
There are more benefits. Depending on how the surface is treated, the imaging time can be adjusted, and drugs can target a specific area; hence, porous silicon nanoparticles can be greatly helpful in medical diagnosis and treatment. Professor Kim said, “We are researching how this can be applied to clinical testing.”


Professor Kim hopes that porous silicon nanoparticles will contribute to conquering Alzheimer’s disease, an age-old intractable challenge. He said, “Many renowned pharmaceutical companies have made huge investments to develop a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, but they have all failed due to the absence of a selective drug delivery system. Nanoparticles may be able to resolve this deadlock. It is my lifelong dream to develop a technology that can accurately deliver drug to the brain, so that we can treat and diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.”

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