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Jul 07, 2014 05:22 AM EDT

“Nanojuice” Can Help Doctors to Examine Gut Better, Study

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Researchers at the University at Buffalo are developing "nanojuice" in an attempt to provide an easy examination of the small intestine. The new imaging technique involves the suspension of nanoparticles in liquid to form "nanojuice."

Researchers said that the average human small intestine, roughly 23 feet long and 1 inch thick, is jammed between the stomach and large intestine. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, Crohn's disease and other gastrointestinal illnesses occur in this region.

Researchers said that the small intestine, situated deep in the human gut, is normally examined by first asking patients to drink a thick, chalky liquid called barium. Doctors then use X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasounds to assess the organ.

But, each of these methods is associated with limitations. Researchers said that current examination methods do not reveal the movement of peristalsis. Dysfunction of peristalsis may be linked to the side effects of thyroid disorders, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

"Nanojuice" however, provides a non-invasive and real time view of the organ. When patients drink the juice, doctors would access the small intestine through a harmless laser light. As a result, they can 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, in a statement. "Better imaging will improve our understanding of these diseases and allow doctors to more effectively care for people suffering from them."

For the creation of "nanojuice", the researchers used a family of dyes called naphthalcyanines that absorb light in the near-infrared spectrum.

Researchers injected "nanojuice" orally in mice. They then used photoacoustic tomography (PAT) to receive immediate and more nuanced view of the small intestine.

The finding is published in the Journal Nature Nanotechnology.

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