Washington: In an attempt to measure nitric oxide molecules, which carry messages within the brain and coordinate immune system functions, researchers have created a nanosensor that can monitor it in living animals for more than a year.
Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, said that nitric oxide has contradictory roles in cancer progression , and they need new tools in order to better understand it.
Strano said that the study provides a new tool for measuring the important molecule, and potentially others, in the body itself and in real time.
The sensors can be implanted under the skin and used to monitor inflammation, a process that produces NO.
Once the sensors are in the body, the researchers shine a near-infrared laser on them, producing a near-infrared fluorescent signal that can be read using an instrument that can tell the difference between nanotubes and other background fluorescence.
This kind of sensor, made of carbon nanotubes, could be used to monitor cancer or other inflammatory diseases, or to detect immune reactions in patients with artificial hips or other implanted devices, according to the researchers.
Strano's team is now working on sensors that could be implanted under the skin of diabetic patients to monitor their glucose or insulin levels, eliminating the need to take blood samples.
The study is published in Nature Nanotechnology.