Diamonds have always been known to be a woman’s best friend. However, a recent study shows that they could be just about anybody’s best friend, with their unique ability in helping the medical fraternity detect cancer. A new study by Dr. Reilly for Nature Communications, has shown that a nanodiamond, which is a synthetic, nanoscale diamond can trace the presence of early-stage cancers during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.Multiple studies have explored the role of nanodiamonds in cancer treatments. Nanodiamonds are about 4-5 millimetres wide and are harmless, nonreactive and are capable of carrying a wide spectrum of drug compounds. This makes them ideal for targeted drug treatments. The team that conducted the study decided to find out whether nanodiamonds aid in detecting early stage cancers. They exposed the diamonds to a process called hyperpolarisation, where the atoms within them are aligned to let out a signal that can be tracked by the MRI scan. Then, by pairing hyperpolarised diamonds to the molecules targeting the cancer, the movement of the latter is easily traceable within the body.

Professor Reilly, co-author of the study from the School of Physics at the University of Sydney in Australia told MedicalNewsToday,

“Having those chemicals target certain types of cancers, bind to certain types of receptors, is something that’s advanced. “What we’ve done is now develop that lighthouse to image those things in an MRI, thereby [allowing us to] actually see the cancers light up, without having to open somebody up.”

While there may be a perception that this kind of treatment may be expensive, researchers were quick to point out that nanodiamonds are unlike original diamonds. Nanodiamonds are synthetic, cheap and available widely. Scientists now plan to test the effectiveness of nanodiamonds in animals; a move that may pave the way to advanced cancer treatments in human beings.

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