Even though there have been many advancements in medical science, diagnosing cancer at early stages is a rare occurrence. In the majority of the cases, the formations have reached later stages or even metastasized.
Cancer is among the top killers of the world as well as in the United States. In accordance with the National Cancer Institue, over eight million deaths worldwide were caused solely by different types of cancer in 2012.
An early diagnosis in cases of cancer is important as it ensures better and more effective tr.eatment. Researchers have been working on this matter for quite a long time.
In order to come up with a way of detecting cancer in the early stages, researchers used nanosensors to look at interactions at a molecular level that may indicate cancer.
More precisely, the main focus of the research was protein to protein interactions. According to the researchers, the nanosensors tested may be particularly helpful in the detection of lymphocytic leukemia.
Lymphocytic leukemia is a form of cancer that begins and forms in the bone marrow. It may also later spread to the blood and other organs eventually.
Statistically, there are around 21,000 new cases every year in the United States. 4,500 of the patients in these cases usually die.
The study was led by Liviu Movileanu, a professor of physics at the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University in New York, and Avinash Kumar Thakur, a doctoral researcher in physics at Syracuse. The paper appears in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
You can read the paper here.
How Do these Nanosensors Work?
Protein to protein reactions is a vital part of the development of cells in the human body. The nanosensors, first developed in Prof. Movileanu’s laboratory, are able to detect these reactions between the proteins.
Examination of interactomes or all the proteins interactions within a cell is actually a subtype of biophysics. It uses computational techniques and many different types of technologies.
The protein to protein reactions is dependent on a variety of things. For example, develop stage and type of cell as well as environmental factors. Some of the PPIs are transient while others are stable.
The interactions that are required for cell signaling and gene activation are transient. In addition, interactions for the development of cancer cells are also transient.
The technology available at the moment cannot look at these interactions because of their changing nature.
However, the new nanosensors are able to do so by creating a pathway in the cell membrane and allowing current to pass. When the proteins cross the electric current, they change its intensity. This way, the researchers can see the properties and identity of the proteins.
Prof. Movileanu says on the working on nanosensors “Our nanostructures allow us to observe biochemical events in a sensitive, specific, and quantitative manner,” He further adds “Afterward, we can make a solid assessment about a single protein sample.”
What Are the Future Prospects?
Since these nanosensors can look at the type and identity of a specific protein, it may be easier to study functional proteins and their interactions with each other. Not only can such technology be used for detection of cancer but help in its treatment in the future.
According to Prof. Movileanu, it will be easier to figure out how specific parts of a cell function using such technology. This way, mysteries of why a cell goes rogue and becomes cancerous may also be resolved and possibly stopped at the right time.
The researchers hope that the nanosensors will be successful in the detection of cancer, particularly lymphocytic leukemia in the future.