Magnetic detection of particles in the human body.


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In the broad range of applications of superparamagnetic nanoparticles, especially in medicine, the Arthur project is focused on the use of these particles as a tracer for sentinel lymph node detection. Sentinel lymph node detection is a procedure very often used in breast cancer patients, but it is also applicable to patients with melanoma and colon cancer. The serious logistic and safety issues associated with the currently available method using radioactive dye demand for the development of a simpler method. The use of magnetic nanopartcles will enable reliable sentinel lymph node detection in hospitals that currently don’t have access to radioactive dye. Also hospitals struggling with the complex logistics of the procedure may benefit from the introduction of the magnetic approach.

The Technology

The magnetic nanoparticles are based on the patient friendly iron oxide, which are already used in clinical practice as contrast agent in MRI. The challenges for this project are the design and testing of the detection system, the characteristics of the superparamagnetic nanoparticles and the clinical proof of principle. The design of the detection system is principally based on the specific nonlinear behavior of superparamagnetic particles. In this context it is important to take account of the possible noise sources present in the clinical environment. Furthermore the tiny amounts of magnetism present in the small lymph nodes require highly sensitive detection. Using smart coil design and advance cryogenic technology together with intelligent detection algorithms, small amounts of accumulated superparamagnetic nanoparticles can be detected. The In close collaboration with three companies and two clinical partners the research will facilitate a fast introduction of this method in clinical practice.

A prototype of a handheld instrument is developed and tested in a clinical relevant setting. The detector can detect a clinically relevant quantity of magnetic nanoparticles relatively deep in a patient (~10mm). Based on the results in this project the UT developed 3 research lines to further develop this technique:

  • Development of a larger handheld device to realize ~50mm detection depth, with regional funding from the Province of Overijssel.
  • Development of a compact handheld device for the Head&Neck case, were the shine-through of the injection spot limits the use of a nuclear tracer (STW-KWF).
  • Development of a novel handheld device for Laparoscopic surgery, with a unique magnetic concept of a larger and separate excitation coil (STW-OTP).


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