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Nanojuice may just help diagnose those tummy ailments a bit easier and quicker

Nanojuice may help diagnose irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, Crohn's disease and other gastrointestinal issues in a quick and easier fashion.

Judy Mottl, Tech Times, Jul 7, 2014

A new juice may just be what the doctor orders when it's time to figure out what's causing pain in the gut region. The drink, tagged "nanojuice" by its research team, may help diagnose irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, Crohn's disease and other gastrointestinal issues in a quick and easier fashion.

A team of researchers at the University at Buffalo claim a new drink and imaging approach would beat out current approaches to intestine ailment investigations.

According to a press release on the technique, the process uses nanoparticles suspended in liquid to form "nanojuice" that patients would drink. Upon reaching the small intestine, doctors hit the nanoparticles with a harmless laser light, providing an unparalleled, noninvasive, real-time view of the organ.

"Conventional imaging methods show the organ and blockages, but this method allows you to see how the small intestine operates in real time," says corresponding author Jonathan Lovell, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University at Buffalo, a SUNY school.

The research was published July 6 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

 "Better imaging will improve our understanding of these diseases and allow doctors to more effectively care for people suffering from them," adds Lovell.

The human small intestine, on average, is about 23 feet long and one inch thick and is situated between the stomach and large intestine. It is where a good majority of digestion and food absorption takes place. It's also the place where most irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal issues tend to take place.

Diagnostic treatments today involve drinking barium, a thick chalky liquid, and then using X-rays, ultrasounds and magnetic resonance imaging to assess issues. But the research team claims that it's not as safe or effective as it should be for patients.

The teams also claims the traditional diagnostic approach is not highly effective at providing real-time imaging of movement such as peristalsis, which is the contraction of muscles that propels food through the small intestine.

"Dysfunction of these movements may be linked to the previously mentioned illnesses, as well as side effects of thyroid disorders, diabetes and Parkinson's disease," states the release.

The research team tapped dyes called naphthalcyanines, which can absorb large portions of light in the near-infrared spectrum. That makes them ideal to use as biological contrast agents. The problem is they can't be used for human testing as the dyes don't disperse and are absorbed into the blood stream. So they formed the nanoparticles, called "nanonaps," that contain the dye but avoid the potential health risk by not being absorbed.

The researchers are hoping to keep refining the testing approach and expand it into other areas of medical assessment related to the gastrointestinal tract.

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