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How Green Tea Could Help Improve MRIs

Popular beverage could have an application in the medical imaging world.

by American Chemical Society
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green teaCompounds from green tea could boost the quality of biomedical imaging.Wikimol, Wikimedia CommonsGreen tea's popularity has grown quickly in recent years. Its fans can drink it, enjoy its flavor in their ice cream and slather it on their skin with lotions infused with it. Now, the tea could have a new, unexpected role — to improve the image quality of MRIs. Scientists report in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces that they successfully used compounds from green tea to help image cancer tumors in mice. 

Sanjay Mathur and colleagues note that recent research has revealed the potential usefulness of nanoparticles — iron oxide in particular — to make biomedical imaging better. But the nanoparticles have their disadvantages. They tend to cluster together easily and need help getting to their destinations in the body. To address these issues, researchers have recently tried attaching natural nutrients to the nanoparticles. Mathur's team wanted to see if compounds from green tea, which research suggests has anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties, could play this role. 

Using a simple, one-step process, the researchers coated iron-oxide nanoparticles with green-tea compounds called catechins and administered them to mice with cancer. MRIs demonstrated that the novel imaging agents gathered in tumor cells and showed a strong contrast from surrounding non-tumor cells. The researchers conclude that the catechin-coated nanoparticles are promising candidates for use in MRIs and related applications. 

The authors acknowledge funding from the University of Cologne and the EU Project Nanommune.