Although they are one millionth the size of a human hair and are so small they cannot be seen with the naked eye, nanoparticles may become one of the most significant new products in the biomedical field thanks to University of Missouri-Columbia researchers who have developed a procedure to make them that is 240 times faster than previous methods.
Today, nanoparticles are used in applications as varied as making laundry detergent to medicines. However, for them to be beneficial in biomedical applications, they must be manufactured quickly under biologically friendly conditions. Currently that process takes 20 to 40 hours. Kattesh Katti, MU professor of radiology, physics and a senior research scientist at the MU Research Reactor; Raghuraman Kannan, research assistant professor of radiology and Kavita Katti, senior research chemist in radiology, have reduced the time to create gold and silver nanoparticles at room temperature to five to 10 minutes.
"If nanoparticles are to be used for optical imaging within the body, it is pivotal to be able to generate silver nanoparticles at a specific site within the body almost instantaneously," Kattesh Katti said. "Methods that require excessive heating for long durations will have limited biomedical utility."
Gold nanoparticles are biologically benign and are used to make biosensors for disease detection, produce electronic materials and treat cancer. Silver nanoparticles have potential applications in diagnostic biomedical optical imaging. Silver nanoparticles also are extensively used as anti-bacterial agents in the health industry, food storage, textile coatings and a number of environmental applications. They are superior to nanoparticles made of other materials because of their imaging capabilities and their resonance.
Katti said nanoscience represents an exciting new area of science for the 21st century. Working with MU Physics Professor Meera Chandrasekhar, Assistant Professor of Physics Suchi Guha, and graduate assistant Vijaya Kattumuri, Katti and Kannan also are examining the light imaging properties of nanoparticles. Katti says his lab will be able to supply nanoparticles for other research labs.
"Our objective is to develop our own research and student training in nanoscience and nanotechnology and assist with research across the campus," Katti said. "Once we have done that, we will certainly be able to help researchers all across the United States."
MU has filed a patent request with the United States Patent Office on the silver nanoparticles. A patent for the gold nanoparticles will be filed later this month.