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'Nanojuice' To Improve Gut Examination

Update Date: Jul 07, 2014 11:14 AM EDT

Small intestine, located deep in the human gut, is not easy to examine. X-rays, MRIs and ultrasound images provide snapshots but with limitations. However, the help is on the way. 

Researchers are developing a new imaging technique that involves nanoparticles suspended in liquid to form 'nanojuice' that patients would drink. Once the liquid reaches small intestine, doctors would strike its nanoparticles with a harmless laser light, providing a more clear and real-time view of the organ.

"Conventional imaging methods show the organ and blockages, but this method allows you to see how the small intestine operates in real time," said corresponding author Jonathan Lovell, PhD, UB assistant professor of biomedical engineering, in the press release. "Better imaging will improve our understanding of these diseases and allow doctors to more effectively care for people suffering from them."

The average human small intestine measures roughly 23 feet long and 1 inch think. It is sandwiched between the stomach and large intestine and here itself much of the digestion and absorption of food takes place.

To assess the organ, doctors typically require patients to drink a thick, chalky liquid called barium. Doctors then use X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasounds to assess the organ, but these techniques are limited with respect to safety, accessibility and lack of adequate contrast, respectively, the press release added.

The study describing the technology has been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. 

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