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Detecting Cancer Faster Using Nanotechnology

Cancer Cell

A new technology to detect disease biomarkers, by detecting nucleic acids has been developed. Nucleic acids are the building blocks of all living organisms. The trial test requires only a few drops of blood to be taken from a person.

There are many different types of nucleic acids. One group, called as microRNAs, can signal several different diseases, including cancer.

The new method can determine whether a specific target nucleic acid sequence exists within a mixture. If it does, the method appears to be able to quantify the level by producing an electronic signature and counting the number of signals. The key to the method is differentiating between different nucleic acids to ensure the ones that relate to different types of cancer are detected.

In tests, one class of microRNA called mi-R155, which is known to indicate lung cancer in humans, was successfully detected. The method was sensitive enough to detect tiny amounts of the biomarker of the particular cancer.

The study conducted to date is a proof of concept one, to see if a clinical test can be produced. The results indicate that such a test can be manufactured, although further trials will be required throughout the development process. One key thing to assess is whether cancer can be detected from specific body samples: blood, tissue, or urine.

The research was carried out at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The research is published in the journal Nano Letters, in a paper headed “Sequence-Specific Recognition of MicroRNAs and Other Short Nucleic Acids with Solid-State Nanopores.”

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.