Nanoparticles offer diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities impossible with small molecules or micro-scale tools. As molecular biology merges with medical imaging to form the field of molecular imaging, nanoparticle imaging is increasingly common with both therapeutic and diagnostic applications. The term theranostic indicates technology with concurrent and complementary diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities. When performed with sub-micron materials, the field may be termed theranostic nanomedicine. Although nanoparticles have been FDA-approved for clinical use as transport vehicles for nearly 15 years, full translation of their theranostic potential is incomplete. Still, remarkable successes with nanoparticles have been realized in the areas of drug delivery and magnetic resonance imaging. Emerging applications include image-guided resection, optical/photoacoustic imaging in vivo, contrast-enhanced ultrasound, and thermoablative therapy.
Diagnosis with nanoparticles in molecular imaging involves correlating signal to a phenotype. The disease’s size, stage, and biochemical signature can be gleaned from the location and intensity of nanoparticle signal emanating from a living subject. Therapy with NP uses the image for resection or delivery of small molecule or RNA thererapeutic. Ablation of the affected area is also possible via heat or radioactivity.
The ideal theranostic NP: (1) selectively and rapidly accumulates in diseased tissue, (2) reports biochemical and morphological characteristics of the area, (3) delivers a non-invasive therapeutic, and (4) is safe and biodegrades with non-toxic byproducts. Above is a schematic of such a system which contains a central imaging core (yellow) surrounded by small molecule therapeutics (red). The system targets via ligands such as IgG (pink) and is protected from immune scavengers by a cloak of protective polymer (green). While no nanoparticle has achieved all of the above features, many NPs do fulfill one or more. While the most clinically translatable nanoparticles have been used in the field of magnetic resonance imaging, other types are quickly becoming more biocompatible by overcoming toxicity and biodistribution concerns. The document details diagnostic imaging and therapeutic uses of nanoparticles. We propose five main types of nanoparticles with concurrent diagnostic and thereapeutic uses and offer examples of each.
Keywords: Theranostic, Nanoparticle, Molecular Imaging