The accumulation of microdamage in bone has long been linked by physicians to increased risk of fractures in both physically active individuals and the elderly. The role of microdamage in bone fragility has not been well studied due to limited capabilities for detecting such damage. Current imaging techniques are, by their nature, invasive, destructive, time consuming (and thus expensive) and limited to the two dimensional.
In their paper "Preparation of functionalized gold nanoparticles as a targeted x-ray contrast agent for damaged bone tissue", Zhenyuan Zhang, Ryan D. Ross and Ryan K. Roeder, all of Notre Dame’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, after determining that what was needed was "a deliverable, biocompatible and damage-specific x-ray contrast agent" and that the contrast agent "must be nanoscale in order to be delivered through vasculature to microcracks". Noting that gold nanoparticles had recently been studied as a vascular contrast agent, "exhibiting high x-ray attenuation, colloidal stability, and biocompatability" and that gold nanoparticles are readily synthesized and functionalized through surface adsorption of molecules with thiols or amines, Zhang et al conducted experiments successfully using gold nanoparticles as targeted x-ray contrast agents.
In their conclusions, Zhang et al noted that "Functionalized AU NPs are a promising candidate for a targeted x-ray contrast agent for damaged bone tissue". .
This is yet another example of the incorporation of nanoparticles to improve existing medical technology.