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September 1st, 2010
Using a novel laser-based technique, researchers at North Carolina State University have made arrays of tiny, hollow plastic needles that they used to insert fluorescent quantum-dot dyes into skin. Biomedical engineering professor Roger Narayan, who leads the research, says the microneedles and quantum dots, which have been tested on pigs, could be used to diagnose and treat skin cancer, and other chronic diseases.
Researchers have recently developed ways touse quantum dots--nanocrystals of semiconductors such as cadmium selenide and zinc sulfide that glow in different colors--to image tumors and deliver drugs into cells. The dots are much brighter and more stable inside the body than traditional organic dyes. "When combined with microneedles, [quantum dots] can offer a powerful method to probe the skin and other tissues," says Mark Prausnitz, a chemical and biomolecular engineering professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Prausnitz has made biodegradable polymer microneedles that dissolve into the skin in a few minutes.
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