Li Gu, a post-doctoral fellow, talks about his award-winning image in this video from MIT's Koch Institute. Gu works in the lab of in the lab of Paula Hammond and created this image in partnership with Xiangnan Dang, a post-doctoral fellow in Angela Belcher's lab.
Both laboratories use nanotechnology to detect and treat tumors, aiming to improve survival rates in cancer. In the image, green dots indicate the location of fluorescent particles in a metastatic tumor that is growing on a healthy liver.
They are using a technology called layer-by-layer to fuse near infrared II (NIR-II) fluorescent probes with nanoparticles. A negatively charged polymer encapsulates a NIR-II probe, and then, harnessing the power of electrostatic attraction, layers are built onto the particle. In the end, four layers sit on top of the near infrared core.
The particle they use can specifically target a tumor, and will thus colocalize with it. When a near-infrared light is shone onto the sample, the nanoparticle will emit fluorescent light indicating the location of the tumor.
The technology can allow researchers to put drugs or diagnostic agents onto a probe that will then direct things directly to the tumor - a so-called smart delivery system.