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USC study finds tattoo ink could potentially enhance cancer detection

USC study finds tattoo ink could potentially enhance cancer detection
USC study finds tattoo ink could potentially enhance cancer detection

According to a new research study conducted by USC Viterbi Department of Biomedical Engineering, the humble ink used by a tattoo artist to make a tattoo might possibly help improve cancer detection.

Cristina Zavaleta, WiSE Gabilan assistant prof., Viterbi Department, which has its laboratory at the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, along with her team recently made new imaging contrast agents by using common dyes like food dyes and tattoo ink. These dyes illuminate cancers when they are attached to nanoparticles, enabling medical professionals to differentiate in normal adjacent cells and cancer cells better.

Zavaleta further added that taking colon cancer for instance, which is normally detected through endoscopy. However, an endoscope is only a flashlight attached to one end of a stick. So the endoscope would only provide information regarding the colon’s structure- one can only see a polyp through this method and further understand that he/she needs to take a biopsy.

However, if certain imaging tools are provided to support doctors recognize if that polyp is benign or actually cancerous, they might not even require the biopsy.

Early cancer detection is important for patients in order to get the best outcome from its treatment process. Cancer is a disease that would affect more than 38% of Americans at some point of their respective life. However, detecting cancer is extremely challenging if there are no good imaging agents/ contrast materials. These materials when injected in a patient, enable imaging like CT and MRI to function with better specificity and sensitivity, allowing medical professionals to detect cancer with accuracy, as well as for surgeons to recognize the exact tumor margins.

Illuminated nanoparticles move from a patient’s blood vessel to search for cancer in the body. The coloring dyes are added in nanoparticles to enable more sensitive imaging contrast while recognizing cancerous cells.

Source credit: https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200902/Tattoo-ink-could-be-the-key-to-improving-cancer-detection.aspx