Nanoparticles have exciting potential applications in health and medical tasks, from delivering drugs to targeted cells, to monitoring specific toxins or biomarkers in the body. But this then raises the question, how do you monitor these to make sure that they are working properly?
These particles are difficult to separate from the blood’s plasma, due to their size and chemical composition. One approach is to dilute a blood sample with a sugar solution, then use a centrifuge to separate the nanoparticles that stick to the sugar molecules. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have come up with a different solution to the problem. They have created a tiny chip that uses electricity to separate nanoparticles from blood plasma. An array of hundreds of microscopic electrodes create an oscillating electrical field, which pulls the nanoparticles from the blood. The nanoparticles respond to the changing electrical field at a different speed than the rest of the plasma components, with the result that they are pulled to the electrodes. The researchers have demonstrated that the chip can remove the particles from a blood sample within seven minutes.
This new sampling technique could help other researchers develop new treatments and other technologies using nanoparticles, by making the research process faster and less expensive.