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Subspecialties Retina, Basic & Translational Research, Imaging & Diagnostics


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How great is it to accomplish two things at once? Personally, I try to defeat my multitasking demons by reading while using my exercise bike (assisted by a tablet stand – and preferably with a coffee in hand!). But when it comes to medicine, diagnosis and treatment are normally two separate entities and by no means as easy to juggle as my heart rate zone and the latest ophthalmology literature. Recently, however, the dichotomy of diagnosis and therapy is beginning to disappear thanks to theranostic technologies. If you think that “theranostic” sounds suspiciously like a mix of “therapy” and “diagnostics,” then you have earned your spoonful of sugar.

Researchers from the Second Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University in Chongqing, China, are using theranostics as a potential retinoblastoma treatment. They designed a nanoparticle drawn to the negative charge of cholesterol that accumulates in cancerous tissue; can be detected using ultrasound, photoacoustic, and magnetic resonance imaging techniques for diagnostic purposes; and also produces heat to kill cancer cells when targeted by activation of photothermal and photodynamic processes with a 808 nm laser(1). The nanoparticle itself is a folate and magnetic cationic nanoliposome that encapsulates two active components, indocyanine green and perfluorohexane.  In the lab, it targeted cancer cells with just over 95 percent cell uptake rate and, when used in mice, achieved almost complete tumor regression. The therapy was also deemed to be safe and have no off-target toxicities when tested in mice. This combined approach to therapy not only simplifies the treatment and synthesis processes, but also lowers manufacturing costs.

The results offer promising evidence that these nanoparticles could be used for diagnosis and treatment of retinoblastoma – but, on a wider scale, they’re another checkmark in the column of superparamagnetic theranostics as an efficient cancer treatment option in many tissues. Hopefully, this medicine won’t require a spoonful of sugar to help it go down in a most delightful way!

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  1. W Zheng et al., Int J Nanomedicine, 17, 3217 (2022). PMID: 35924259.
About the Author
Geoffrey Potjewyd

Associate Editor, The Ophthalmologist

The lion’s share of my PhD was spent in the lab, and though I mostly enjoyed it (mostly), what I particularly liked was the opportunity to learn about the latest breakthroughs in research. Communicating science to a wider audience allows me to scratch that itch without working all week only to find my stem cell culture has given up the ghost on the Friday (I’m not bitter). Fortunately for me, it turns out writing is actually fun – so by working for Texere I get to do it every day, whilst still being an active member of the clinical and research community.

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