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Magnetoelectric (ME) nanoparticles (MENs) intrinsically couple magnetic and electric fields. Using them as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) sensitive nanoprobes adds another dimension for NMR detection of biological cells based on the cell type and corresponding particle association with the cell. Based on ME property, for the first time we show that MENs can distinguish different cancer cells among themselves as well as from their normal counterparts. The core-shell nanoparticles are 30 nm in size and were not superparamagnetic. Due to presence of the ME effect, these nanoparticles can significantly enhance the electric field configuration on the cell membrane which serves as a signature characteristic depending on the cancer cell type and progression stage. This was clearly observed by a significant change in the NMR absorption spectra of cells incubated with MENs. In contrast, conventional cobalt ferrite magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) did not show any change in the NMR absorption spectra. We conclude that different membrane properties of cells which result in distinct MEN organization and the minimization of electrical energy due to particle binding to the cells contribute to the NMR signal. The nanoprobe based NMR spectroscopy has the potential to enable rapid screening of cancers and impact next-generation cancer diagnostic exams.


Originally published in Scientific Reports.

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