By modifying tiny particles that naturally occur in cells, scientists found a way to improve upon ultrasound imaging. The particles are protein-shelled, gas-filled structures called gas vesicles. Caltech scientists developed ways to swap out the proteins on the surface like Legos to get the particles to behave in different ways.
For example, one protein causes the vesicle to attach to a certain kind of tissue cell, say a tumor cell. The scientists also figured out how to alter the gas inside so that when an ultrasound image is taken, the particles show up in different colors. The technique could greatly improve a doctor's ability to pinpoint the location of cancerous cells and target them for removal. Credit: Barth van Rossum/Caltech