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Texas A&M Engineering imaging technique part of research to treat cancer with nanotechnology

October 7, 2004

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - A new medical imaging technique developed by Texas A&M Engineering biomedical researchers is another weapon for the arsenal in the fight against cancer. Laser-induced photoacoustic tomography (PAT) is a noninvasive technology that combines optical waves and ultrasonic waves to create clearer images. "The two kinds of energy we are combining work together to allow for better contrast and resolution," said PAT developer Dr. Lihong Wang, holder of the Royce E. Wisenbaker II Professorship in Engineering and professor of biomedical engineering at Texas A&M University. The PAT technology will be applied to an integrated approach for diagnosing and treating cancer using a new class of nanomaterials - near-infrared-absorbing composite particles called nanoshells. Nanospectra Biosciences Inc. is working with Rice University, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Texas A&M in developing the technique. The Houston company has received a $2 million award from the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology to fund the work. ATP awards are made on the basis of rigorous, competitive peer review and based on the potential for broad-based economic benefits and commercialization. The initial focus will be to develop a diagnostic and therapeutic product for breast cancer, said J. Donald Payne, president and CEO of Nanospectra Biosciences. Invented at Rice University, nanoshells are made of the biocompatible materials gold and silica (glass). They're about 20 times smaller than red blood cells. When injected in a patient's bloodstream, nanoshells will preferentially accumulate in tumors by leaking out of the tumors' poorly developed blood vessels. Nanoshells absorb light at the near-infrared wavelengths that harmlessly penetrate body tissue. When heated by a laser emitting near-infrared light, they heat up enough to destroy nearby tumor cells without hurting healthy cells. PAT technology will be used to detect and pinpoint the tumors by locating where the nanoshells have concentrated. At Texas A&M since 1996, Wang directs the Optical Imaging Laboratory in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and has a joint appointment in the Department of Electrical Engineering. Wang is a Fellow of the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE) and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He is also a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and the Optical Society of America.

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