This past summer, I published a research article as first co-author! The paper is entitled “A colorful approach towards developing new nano-based imaging contrast agents for improved cancer detection,” and it can be found in Biomaterials Science. My best friend, Helen, and I have worked on this paper since our freshman year. We work in Dr. Cristina Zavaleta’s molecular imaging lab, and our research involves the use of nanoparticles in conjunction with optical imaging modalities to delineate the margins of tumors during surgery. Currently, surgeons must rely on tactile and visual feedback, which is subjective and often leads to repeat surgeries.
Helen and I characterized the optical properties of tattoo inks and dyes found in food and cosmetics using fluorescence and Raman imaging instruments. These dyes are in Cheetos, lipsticks, and skin creams! The pigments and dyes have never been investigated before for use in cancer imaging, so our article is the very first to report on their potential as imaging agents. Since they have already been approved for human consumption, they may have an easier path to clinical translation for imaging tumors in real time during a lumpectomy or an endoscopic procedure. When Professor Zavaleta, Helen, and I were working on the paper, we called it the “Pretty Colors Paper.” To this day, I refer to the paper by that name and have trouble remembering its actual name!
The article has garnered considerable media attention; it has been featured in abc7 news and the Smithsonian magazine. Viterbi wrote a great piece on it if you want to learn more!