Imaging is dino-mite!

My continued search into the literature revealed this interesting contribution, which focuses on the development of imaging agents that target hydroxyapatite (a calcium salt related to bone growth and calcium deposition in general). The overall idea is that if we had near-infrared contrast agents that were targeted to microcalcifications (which also usually consist of hydroxyapatite), we could better detect the early stages of breast cancer because the agents would be easy to visualize in live subjects. Bisphosphonates are known to bind hydroxyapatite, but making these compounds hasn’t been easy, either because of poor solubility, or the poor yields or harsh conditions of known reactions. John Frangioni and his colleagues now report both a new, facile method for the synthesis of these compounds and concomitant conjugation to a known NIR contrast agent, and also their application to imaging in pigs. It seems pretty interesting, in particular as I’ve never made any C-P bonds myself.

The other aspect of the paper which intrigued me is the use of ‘large animals’ in the title. While I don’t think anyone would argue that pigs are large animals (and P.S.: love the graphical abstract), I found myself wondering: how large of an animal can these compounds really be applied to? People? Horses? Bears? Even… dinosaurs? (which, as I still like to nurture my third-grade self, seems about the biggest animal you could ever imagine. Sorry, blue whale). It made me further think that maybe we’re missing an opportunity to have more nerdy science lingo: similar to the generic ‘gazillion’ to mean a very large number, maybe we could use the prefix ‘dino’ to indicate a very large size of something? Then, as kind of the antithesis of ‘nano’, we could have dinotechnology (although maybe we’ve already had this one?), dinorobots, dinomachines… In more common usage, you could say someone has a dinohouse (instead of a mansion), a dinohead (for someone really egotistical), or a dinocollection of … well, whatever you have a lot of. What do you think? Will it catch on? Will it be, dare I ask, a dinophenomenon?

Catherine (associate editor, Nature Chemical Biology)