Students at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston are doing some amazing research with nanotechnology. This is a promising report in the battle against cancers:

Nanoscale magnets offer a new way to find faint, early traces of cancer in patients, according to Rice University students working on a method to capitalize on the magnets’ properties. Three Rice computational and applied mathematics students are refining a program to analyze magnetic relaxometry signals from iron-oxide nanoparticles that find and attach themselves to cancerous cells.

Rice seniors Brian Ho, Rachel Hoffman and Eric Sung have developed a novel way to analyze data for cancer researchers who hope to use magnetic nanoparticles to locate signs of cancer that X-rays would never spot.

All magnets (or materials prone to magnetism) have magnetic “moments,” like invisible needles that can move and react to magnetic fields, even if their physical hosts can’t.

These ghostly needles align when exposed to an external magnetic field; when the field is removed, they “relax” once again. Relaxometry measures this latter characteristic. It turns out the moments relax at a very different rate when they belong to nanoparticles that are bound to cancer cells.

The students are working with Rice adviser Béatrice Rivière, the Noah G. Harding Chair and a professor of computational and applied mathematics, and doctors at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to develop computer programs that analyze “traces” of these moments as they relax. Albuquerque, N.M.,-based Senior Scientific, in collaboration with MD Anderson, is developing a commercial relaxometry platform for the early detection of cancer.

 Read more about the research here.

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