|An example of nanoparticles. / Photo by: cybrain via Shutterstock|
Predicting how scars will form after a deep wound or surgery is challenging among clinicians. However, for a team of scientists, the solution may be found in nanotechnology. Their nanoparticles were able to detect signs of abnormal scarring that can alert clinicians to take preventive actions.
The study was a collaboration between the scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and Northwestern University in the United States. The scarring detection tool they developed is composed of thousands of nanoparticles called NanoFlares. Each nanoparticle contains strands of DNA on their surfaces that resemble balls of spikes.
The DNA strands attached to the tiny particles could interact with specific biomarkers inside skin cells. Once the particles interact with the biomarkers, they would release certain signals that could only be detected by fluorescence, a form of light.
They tested the NanoFlares in both animal and human skin samples by adding the components in a cream. They applied the modified cream on the closed wounds of skin samples and then used a handheld fluorescence microscope to see the signals from the nanoparticles. If any signals are observed under the microscope, it indicates that something wrong is happening in the scar formation.
“When our bioengineered nanoparticles are applied on the skin, they will penetrate up to 2mm below the skin surface and enter scar cells. Upon binding with a specific tell-tale gene released by the scar cells, smaller DNA spikes are knocked loose and light up under the microscope like little light flares. The more flares we see, the more scarring activity there is,” explained Xu Chenjie, an author of the study and an assistant professor of the School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at NTU.
The scientists have filed for a patent application for their technology. They also said that the method could be an alternative to biopsy and other invasive techniques in analyzing and monitoring skin problems.