Magnetic-Plasmonic nanocomposites could revolutionize medicine, says Trinity research

The Chemistry Department of Trinity college have published research showing that magnetic plasmonic nanomaterials could enhance future diagnostic techniques and cancer treatment therapies.

The nanomaterials are of interest in the field of biomedicine because of the vast amount of potential applications they have, such as molecular imaging, photothermal therapy, magnetic hyperthermia and as drug delivery vehicles. Thus applications exist for both therapy and diagnosis.

Magnetic plasmonic nanoparticles compose these nanomaterials – these particles are small molecules formed by a core of magnets linked with an outer layer of metal, the plasmonic layer. The magnetic core allows the molecules to attach to specific tissues throughout the interaction with magnetic fields. The plasmonic component is used as a receiver and transmitter of energy, depending on the metal which forms the component. This plasmonic component can be further functionalized very easily by adding molecules to give new properties to the particles. This includes drug molecules for treatment and fluorescent compounds for labelling. These extra molecules can also form a shell of a different functional metal, semiconductor, or dielectric.

(nanoparticle structure)

The nanocomposites can be combined with different other molecules to serve multiple purposes. In cancer treatment the molecule can be directed on tumors throughout an external magnet and the plasmons, stimulated with infrared light, can release heat and cut the tumors cells.In treatment of other diseases, the plasmonic particles can be constructed to transport drugs to various points of interest.

In diagnosis, the particles can be directed to a tumor-suspected area with magnetic fields. Antibodies attached to the nanoparticles can then link themselves to specific tumor sites, if present. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners can detect these nanoparticles – recognizing fluorescent or radioactive compounds that have been engineered onto the magnetic-plasmonic particles.They can be bioengineered to detect a wide range of other diseases and viruses.

What is of particular interest to researchers studying these particles is the possible use of new materials to not only quantify, but also cure diseases, concurrently. The nanoparticles are also fortunately versatile, as they can be built in laboratory with a wide range of materials and apparatus.

Right now the effects of the particles have only been studied in vitro on animal and human tissues. Toxicity of the materials to living cells is yet to be fully understood before progressing to animal or clinic tests; however the wide range of components that can be used to assemble the nanoparticles show promise in enhancing their biocompatibility.

(study and images by Shelley Stafford, Raquel Serrano Garcia and Yurii K. Gun’ko ,pdf available at

(This blog article is also avalible on the Trinity News issue released the 23/01/2018)