Diamonds Are Forever, So Maybe Cancer Doesn’t Have to Be
A new study found synthetic versions of diamonds to be very effective at detecting early-stage cancerous tumors through magnetic resonance imaging.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and over 500,000 will succumb to the disease in 2015. This new study could prove lifesaving for years to come.
The study explores diamonds’ ability to light up cancer cells that are typically undetectable.
The experiments were performed by a group of physicists from the University of Sydney who focused their study on nano-diamonds. Nano-diamonds are 4-5 nanometer diamonds found inside meteorites.
Nano-diamonds have been explored in the cancer world before.
In 2011, a study found that attaching them to chemotherapy drugs increased the effectiveness of the drug. Researchers assert that size and non-toxicity make nano-diamonds so useful. This means that neither the immune system nor the kidney will try to attack them.
This previous research is what inspired the University of Sydney researchers to expand into the gems benefits.
Researchers hyperpolarized the nano-diamonds in order to study their ability to detect cancerous tumors. This ability is described as a process of aligning atoms inside a diamond to create a signal detectable by an MRI scanner.
The hyperpolarized nano-diamonds were attached to specific cancer-fighting molecules; therefore they could be tracked throughout the body.
Although the role that diamonds play in both detecting and treating cancer sounds promising, it is not the only gem that science has explored. Research suggests that gold may in its own right have unique properties when it comes to fighting cancer.
Another study found that gold is capable of increasing the effectiveness of radiation treatments in cancer patients.
Whether its gemstones or precious metals, more research is necessary to prove success.