Nanoparticles open new window for biological imaging Featured

    “Quantum dots” that emit infrared light enable highly detailed images of internal body structures. 

    MIT Quantum Dot Web
    Researchers have found a way to make tiny particles that can be injected into the body, where they emit short-wave infrared light. The advance may open up a new way of making detailed images of internal body structures such as fine networks of blood vessels. Image, Bawendi Group at MIT

    For certain frequencies of short-wave infrared light, most biological tissues are nearly as transparent as glass. Now, researchers have made tiny particles that can be injected into the body, where they emit those penetrating frequencies. The advance may provide a new way of making detailed images of internal body structures such as fine networks of blood vessels.

    The new findings, based on the use of light-emitting particles called quantum dots, is described in a paper in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, by MIT research scientist Oliver Bruns, recent graduate Thomas Bischof PhD ’15, professor of chemistry Moungi Bawendi, and 21 others.

    Near-infrared imaging for research on biological tissues, with wavelengths between 700 and 900 nanometers (billionths of a meter), is widely used, but wavelengths of around 1,000 to 2,000 nanometers have the potential to provide even better results, because body tissues are more transparent to that light. “We knew that this imaging mode would be better” than existing methods, Bruns explains, “but we were lacking high-quality emitters” — that is, light-emitting materials that could produce these precise wavelengths.

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    David L. Chandler | MIT News Office
    April 10, 2017