Updated 12:22 PM EDT, Sun, Sep 22, 2019

Diamonds To Detect Early Cancer -- Study

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Would you believe that diamonds are not only a girl's best friend, but potentially, an oncologist's as well?

In a report published in Nature Communications, it seems that diamonds are more than just for jewelry --- they can be effective in detecting early-stage cancerous tumors as well. The study from Australia found that synthetic versions of the precious stones may be used to help detect tumors through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is good for the over 1.6 million Americans diagnosed with this life-threatening disease in 2015 alone.

The study showed that the diamonds have the ability to light up cancer cells that are otherwise undetectable and experiments have already been performed to test the theory from a group of physicists from the University of Sydney. The study focused on nano-diamonds, which are 4-5 nanometers in size and found inside meteorites.

This is not the first time that these gems were associated with cancer. The Daily Beast noted the University of Sydney's study was inspired by another one from 2011, where the Science Translational Medicine found that attaching diamonds to chemotherapy drugs effectively shrinks tumors in mice. The Northwestern University engineers behind the study said that there are two characteristics that make these nano-diamonds useful: their size and non-toxicity, which means that the immune system as well as the kidneys won't attack them.

University of Sydney physics professor David Reilly said that it was a physics problem they faced, "We knew nano-diamonds were of interest for delivering drugs during chemotherapy because they are largely non-toxic and non-reactive. We thought we could build on these non-toxic properties realizing that diamonds have magnetic characteristics enabling them to act as beacons in MRIs."

The concept is looking into a process called hyperpolarizing, where the atoms contained in the diamond are aligned, enabling the MRI scanner to pick up signals created by said aligned atoms. "By attaching hyperpolarised diamonds to molecules targeting cancers the technique can allow tracking of the molecules' movement in the body," Ewa Rej, the lead author of the study, said.

"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," he shared.

According to Design & Trend, the team is now on its way to test the nano-diamond technology on animals to see whether or not it is indeed effective. If this proves successful, then science is another step closer to prevention, and possibly, later on find cure for cancer.

You can read about the full report here.

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