Rose-Shaped Gold and Iron Oxide Nano Structures and Their Applications: Tissue Imaging Contrast Enhancement, Medical Diagnostics, and Photothermal Therapy

Nanotechnologies : Life Science Apps

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  • Keith Johnston, Ph.D. , Chemical Engineering
  • Li Ma , Chemical Engineering
  • Marc Feldman, Ph.D. , University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
  • Thomas Milner, Ph.D. , Biomedical Engineering
  • Konstantin Sokolov, Ph.D. , Biomedical Engineering

Background/unmet need

The identification and treatment of many life-threatening diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and atherosclerosis depends on the outputs provided by innovative medical imaging technologies such as optical coherence tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, photoacoustic imaging, ultrasonic imaging, and fluorescence imaging. Imaging technologies, in turn, depend on the optical capabilities of nano structure contrast agents to produce accurate, meaningful results.

Current nanostructures include nanorods, nanocages, and nanoshells. Commonly, these structures are composed of a metal in conjunction with a polymer or silica gel.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have synthesized a novel type of nanostructure consisting of a “nanorose ” nanostructure, gold and iron oxide, and an FDA-approved polymer coating. The inventors then worked with colleagues at UTHSC- San Antonio to test the feasibility of nanorose absorption by macrophages.

Advantages of the nanorose technology over existing contrast agents such as nanoshells, nanorods, and nanocages arise out of its physical shape and size. The nanorose structures are only 20 to 80 nm in size, smaller than other types of nanostructures. They also have excellent optical sensitivity in the range of 500 to 1100nm, a much wider range than that of nanorod structures currently in use. This is also the range where blood is most transparent, meaning that images in this range are more challenging to produce.


  • Smaller than other nanostructures
  • Increased optical sensitivity in desirable range
  • Wider optical sensitivity range
  • Superparamagnetic
  • Remain stable in physiological buffer solutions
  • Coating customizable for targeting/therapeutic function
  • Environmentally friendly manufacturing process


  • Inert metal
  • FDA approved coating
  • 20 to 80 nm size
  • Uniform rose shape

Market potential/applications

The markets for this invention include the medical imaging/contrast market (optical coherent tomography, photoacoustic, and magnetic resonance imaging), medical diagnostics market (cancer and cardiovascular disease), and photothermal therapies. The medical imaging market is currently $7.8 billion (Medtech Insight). The medical contrast market was $4.22 billion in 2006 (Medical Imaging).

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype