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Jan 03, 2017 06:38 AM EST

Stanford Scientists Feed Worms With Nanoparticles For Biology Study

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A new study at Stanford University is focusing on what biological forces are at play in our bodies. For this, scientists first feed nanoparticles to worms.

In a post on its official website, Stanford researchers fed nanoparticles to worms through bacteria. These nanoparticles have a specific glow when a near-infrared laser strikes it and changes color when the environment around it changes.

This way, these nanoparticles can provide real-time information about the forces affecting them while inside the worm's stomach. Eventually, this is expected to be able to help identify the forces at play for processes such as wound healing and cancer growth.

Jennifer Dionne, one of the main investigators for the research, said that nanoparticles could help detect heart disease and cancer at a very early stage in the future. She is an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford. The research was conducted collaboration with Miriam Goodman, who is a professor of molecular and cellular psychology.

The experiment was made on worms since they have the same digestion process as in humans, which involves mechanical gnashing and shoving. Each nanoparticle emits changes in color from red to orange if there is a mechanical force at play on the order of nanonewtons to micronewtons.

Dionne added that mechanical forces play a major part in what happens to a cell or an organ. Because of its size, nanoparticles have the potential to be used to target specific areas in the human body to create a high-resolution force map indicating the activity of cells in that particular location.

Last September, Stanford Medicine researchers tested three groups of mice with malignant tumors. One group received nanoparticles and chemotherapy while the other two received either nanoparticles only or no treatment at all.

It was found that nanoparticles were able to suppress growth of tumors compared to the group which were not treated at all. Moreover, nanoparticles apparently can work against cancer even without chemotherapy.

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