Skip to Content
77 Mass Ave

Trackable Nanoparticles

Glowing magnetic particles could help map cellular structures and treat disease.
December 18, 2014

A team of researchers from MIT and other institutions has achieved a long-sought goal of creating magnetic nanoparticles that emit a colorful fluorescent glow in a biological environment and could be precisely manipulated into position within living cells.

Such particles could be tracked with great accuracy as researchers position them within the body or inside a cell by applying a magnetic field. A bioreactive coating applied to the particles could seek out and bind with particular molecules, such as markers for tumor cells or other disease agents.

“We wanted to be able to manipulate these structures inside the cells with magnetic fields but also know exactly what it is we’re moving,” says chemistry professor Moungi Bawendi, leader of the team that developed the particles. The wavelength of the nanoparticles’ fluorescent emissions serves as a precise identifying mechanism.

The new method produces the combination of desired properties “in as small a package as possible,” Bawendi says. The techniques they used could also help pave the way for the development of particles with other useful properties, such as the ability to bind with a specific type of bioreceptor.

Initially, at least, the particles might be used to probe basic biological functions within cells, Bawendi says. As additional materials are added to the particles’ coating, they could interact in specific ways with molecules or structures within the cell, either for diagnosis or for treatment.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

AV2.0 autonomous vehicles adapt to unknown road conditions concept
AV2.0 autonomous vehicles adapt to unknown road conditions concept

The big new idea for making self-driving cars that can go anywhere

The mainstream approach to driverless cars is slow and difficult. These startups think going all-in on AI will get there faster.

biomass with Charm mobile unit in background
biomass with Charm mobile unit in background

Inside Charm Industrial’s big bet on corn stalks for carbon removal

The startup used plant matter and bio-oil to sequester thousands of tons of carbon. The question now is how reliable, scalable, and economical this approach will prove.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

AGI is just chatter for now concept
AGI is just chatter for now concept

The hype around DeepMind’s new AI model misses what’s actually cool about it

Some worry that the chatter about these tools is doing the whole field a disservice.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.