Diamonds could help spot early stage cancers

Diamonds could help spot early stage cancers

Researchers have found a way to use diamonds to act as beacons in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and identify cancerous tumours before they become life-threatening. (Image: 123dartist |Shutterstock.com)

A team from the University of Sydney has come up with a method that uses nanoscale, synthetic diamonds to detect cancers before they become life threatening.

The physicists findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, reveal how to make the tiny gems light up inside a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine, acting as a beacon for early-stage cancers.

The manipulated diamonds are then attached to specific chemicals that are known to target cancers.

The microscopic diamonds are injected into the body and tracked as they move through the patient's system.

If there is any trace of cancer in the individual’s body, the chemicals will be attracted to the site and the attached diamonds will provide a "lighthouse" on the MRI scan.

“This is a great example of how quantum physics research tackles real-world problems, in this case opening the way for us to image and target cancers long before they become life-threatening,” lead researcher Professor David Reilly said in a statement.

The next stage of the team's work involves working with medical researchers to test the new technology on animals.

They also expect to research using scorpion venom to target brain tumours with MRI scanning.

Diamonds could help spot early stage cancers

MRI shows a breast tumour. In the future, masses like this one could be detected by using nano diamonds. (Image from Radiopaedia.org)