Nav: Home

New nanotechnology detects biomarkers of cancer

February 12, 2016

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Feb., 12, 2016 - Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have developed a new technology to detect disease biomarkers in the form of nucleic acids, the building blocks of all living organisms.

The proof-of-concept study is currently published online in the journal Nano Letters.

"We envision this as a potential first-line, noninvasive diagnostic to detect anything from cancer to the Ebola virus," said Adam R. Hall, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study. "Although we are certainly at the early stages of the technology, eventually we could perform the test using a few drops of blood from a simple finger prick."

Nucleic acids consist of chains or sequences of bases stretching from just a few to millions of elements long. The exact order in which these bases are found, even over short distances, is strongly tied to their functions, and therefore can be used as direct indicators of what is going on inside cells and tissue. For example, one family of these nucleic acids known as microRNAs are only about 20 bases long, but can signal a wide range of diseases, including cancer.

"Scientists have studied microRNA biomarkers for years, but one problem has been accurate detection because they are so short, many technologies have real difficulty identifying them," Hall said.

In the new technique, nanotechnology is used to determine whether a specific target nucleic acid sequence exists within a mixture, and to quantify it if it does through a simple electronic signature. "If the sequence you are looking for is there, it forms a double helix with a probe we provide and you see a clear signal. If the sequence isn't there, then there isn't any signal," Hall said. "By simply counting the number of signals, you can determine how much of the target is around."

In this study, the team first demonstrated that the technology could effectively identify a specific sequence among a background of competing nucleic acids, and then applied their technique to one particular microRNA (mi-R155) known to indicate lung cancer in humans. They showed that the approach could resolve the minute amount of microRNAs that can be found in patients. Next steps will involve expanding the technology to study clinical samples of blood, tissue or urine.

Hall holds a provisional patent on this technology.
-end-
Funding for the study was provided by NIH grant 1R21CA193067; The Dr. Arthur and Bonnie Ennis Foundation; and the 3M Non-tenured Faculty Award program.

Co-authors include: Osama K. Zahid, B.S., and Fanny Wang, B.S., of Wake Forest Baptist; Jan A. Ruzicka, Ph.D., and Ethan W. Taylor, Ph.D. of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Related Cancer Articles:

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.
More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.
New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.
More Cancer News and Cancer Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...