Researchers develop a 10-minute test to detect cancer

Researchers develop a 10-minute test to detect cancer

A research team at the University of Queensland in Australia has created an experiment to detect cancer in less than 10 minutes. This experiment is based on the fact that DNA fragments from cancer cells change their structure in water. And this is common for almost all cancer types.

The study investigated this DNA signature from breast cancer, bowel cancer, and lymphoma’s samples. The results show that this test is a universal diagnostic that only takes a few minutes.

The researchers also showed that the test was 90% accurate for over 200 samples that were studied in this project. This high accuracy of results shows that there are fewer chances of false positives, otherwise diagnosing cancer when it is not there.

The findings of this research are published in the journal Nature Communications and are available online. Click here to read it.

Is there a universal marker of cancer?

This study is only experimental and there are no human trials yet. If it proves its efficacy in human trials, this study may end the long quest for a single diagnostic tool for all types of cancer.

The researchers aren’t sure yet if this research will prove itself in clinical trials or not. But it is really interesting to know if a simple universal marker of cancer gets an approval.

The test works on a simple technology that is inexpensive and highly accessible for everyone. More importantly, it doesn’t even require any complicated lab-based equipment like that is required in DNA sequencing.

While it works on the point that cells shed DNA when they die and this is now free circulating DNA. Surprisingl, it is always present in the body i.e. tissues and blood because the process of cell growth never stops. The cells die and renew themselves every now and then.

This free DNA, circulating in the body is the diagnostic tool for cancer. However, it is not something that was hidden. For long, scientists are working to study this DNA for cancer signatures.

How is cancer diagnosed?

Instead of working on the DNA itself, the research team worked on understanding the patterns of epigenetic markers attached to it. The epigenetic markers have chemical tags attached to it called methylscape (methyl groups). This attached usually changes the expressions of the genes, by switching them off and on at different times.

When cells are dividing, they pass on these epigenetic patterns to the daughter cells. An analysis of these methyl group showed that they are very different from healthy cells. Normally, the methyl tags are spread along the whole of the DNA. But in cancer affected cells, these methylscape show intense concentrations at certain specific places on the DNA. This is not something that you see in normal cells.

Cancer cells have a unique methylscape

The next was to check this methylscape for other types of cancer. Surprisingly, the same methylscape was there in every type of breast cancer that they checked. They also found that this same DNA signature shows in all other types of cancer, including lymphoma, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer. It seems that all cancer cells show one same type of methylscape.

This test gave rise to the development of cancer diagnostic test. In water, the purified cancer DNA adopts particular 3-D nanostructures because of the intense clusters in methyl tags. These nanostructures also attach easily with gold. The team produced an assay that uses gold nanoparticles, which instantly change color when you attach them to 3-D cancer DNA nanostructures.

All this takes minutes and it is even possible to see this color change with the naked eye. The team has now developed an inexpensive and portable form of this technology that is all set for trials.

 

A research team at the University of Queensland in Australia has created an experiment to detect cancer in less than 10 minutes. This experiment is based on the fact that DNA fragments from cancer cells change their structure in water. And this is common for almost all cancer types.

The study investigated this DNA signature from breast cancer, bowel cancer, and lymphoma’s samples. The results show that this test is a universal diagnostic that only takes a few minutes.

The researchers also showed that the test was 90% accurate for over 200 samples that were studied in this project. This high accuracy of results shows that there are fewer chances of false positives, otherwise diagnosing cancer when it is not there.

The findings of this research are published in the journal Nature Communications and are available online. Click here to read it.

Is there a universal marker of cancer?

This study is only experimental and there are no human trials yet. If it proves its efficacy in human trials, this study may end the long quest for a single diagnostic tool for all types of cancer.

The researchers aren’t sure yet if this research will prove itself in clinical trials or not. But it is really interesting to know if a simple universal marker of cancer gets an approval.

The test works on a simple technology that is inexpensive and highly accessible for everyone. More importantly, it doesn’t even require any complicated lab-based equipment like that is required in DNA sequencing.

While this test works on the point that cells shed DNA when they die and this is now free circulating DNA. But it is always present in the body i.e. tissues and blood because the process of cell growth never stops. The cells die and renew themselves every now and then.

This free DNA, circulating in the body is the diagnostic tool for cancer. However, it is not something that was hidden. For long, scientists are working to study this DNA for cancer signatures.

How is cancer diagnosed?

Instead of working on the DNA itself, the research team worked on understanding the patterns of epigenetic markers attached to it. The epigenetic markers have chemical tags attached to it called methylscape (methyl groups). This attached usually changes the expressions of the genes, by switching them off and on at different times.

When cells are dividing, they pass on these epigenetic patterns to the daughter cells. An analysis of these methyl group showed that they are very different from healthy cells. Normally, the methyl tags are spread along the whole of the DNA. But in cancer affected cells, these methylscape show intense concentrations at certain specific places on the DNA. This is not something that you see in normal cells.

Cancer cells have a unique methylscape

The next was to check this methylscape for other types of cancer. Surprisingly, the same methylscape was there in every type of breast cancer that they checked. They also found that this same DNA signature shows in all other types of cancer, including lymphoma, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer. It seems that all cancer cells show one same type of methylscape.

This test gave rise to the development of cancer diagnostic test. In water, the purified cancer DNA adopts particular 3-D nanostructures because of the intense clusters in methyl tags. These nanostructures also attach easily with gold. The team produced an assay that uses gold nanoparticles, which instantly change color when you attach them to 3-D cancer DNA nanostructures.

All this takes minutes and it is even possible to see this color change with the naked eye. The team has now developed an inexpensive and portable form of this technology that is all set for trials.

 

The author is a Medical Microbiologist and a healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health.

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