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January 4th, 2007
University of Toronto chemist Warren Chan is using quantum dots - nanoscale particles of semi-conductor material - to light up cancer cells in various colours and help identify tumours and the best therapies to target them.
These nano-particles - one-tenth to one-hundredth the diameter of a human hair - can be married to molecules that seek out and attach themselves to specific cancer proteins. These proteins in turn can identify which form of cancer is present.
Each of the nano-particles emit a different colour, depending on its size and shape, when exposed to a light source. And by attaching them, via their accompanying molecules, to telltale cancer proteins, pathologists can literally shine a light on tumours to identify which kind they are and select appropriate therapies to combat them.
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