Diamonds Can Help Detect Cancer


Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr

Synthetic diamonds can act as beacons in MRI scans to help detect cancerous tumors, says a new study.

A series of experiments conducted by the University of Sydney in Australia showed that nano-scale diamonds were highly effective in highlighting early-stage cancers.  The technique involved hyperpolarizing nano-diamonds, a method of aligning atoms inside a diamond.  Once hyperpolarization is over, these diamonds are connected to certain chemicals capable of detecting cancers.

Through injections, these diamonds are delivered directly to the body and monitored through an MRI scanner.  On detecting a cancerous tumor, the diamonds act as a “lighthouse,” according to the ABC, Australia.

“We’ve magnetised the atoms within the nano-diamond and this makes them light up on an MRI scan,” lead author Ewa Rej told ABC, Australia.

“Having those chemicals target certain types of cancers, bind to certain types of receptors, is something that’s advanced,” lead researcher Professor David Reilly added to the website. “What we’ve done is now develop that lighthouse to image those things in an MRI, thereby [allowing us to] actually see the cancers light up, without having to open somebody up.”

Findings of the study published in Nature Communications, are expected to help detect some cancers which are difficult to detect early, including brain and pancreatic cancers.

Power of diamonds in cancer detection and treatment is known from some time. In July 2015, a team of scientists from Taiwan developed a gold-diamond nanodevice for treating cancer.

In March 2011, a study published in Science Translational Medicine showed that nano-diamonds can help treat cancer better than the normal anticancer drugs.  This was because of the inability of the cellular transport proteins in the cancer cells to pump out the carbon based particles.

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