Indian- American Scientist Sangeeta Bhatia developed a cheap paper test to diagnose cancer

Feb 25, 2014 12:40 IST

An Indian-American scientist Sangeeta Bhatia developed a cheap, simple, paper test that can detect cancer on 24 February 2014. Sangeeta Bhatia is professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

imageThe research ended the need for expensive tests such as mammograms and colonoscopy. The diagnostic is based on urine sample. It could reveal within minutes whether a person has cancer or not.

The paper test relies on nanoparticles that interact with tumor proteins called proteases, each of which can trigger release of hundreds of biomarkers that are then easily detectable in a patient's urine.

The concept of a synthetic biomarker technology to amplify signals from tumor proteins would be hard to detect on their own. These proteins, known as matrix metalloproteinase (MMP), help cancer cells escape their original locations by cutting through proteins of the extracellular matrix, which normally holds cells in place.

The MIT nanoparticles are coated with peptides (short protein fragments) targeted by different MMPs. These particles congregate at tumor sites, where MMPs cleave hundreds of peptides, which accumulate in the kidneys and are excreted in the urine.

In the original version of the technology, these peptides were detected using an instrument called a mass spectrometer, which analyzes the molecular makeup of a sample.

To create the test strips, the researchers first coated nitrocellulose paper with antibodies that can capture the peptides. Once the peptides are captured, they flow along the strip and are exposed to several invisible test lines made of other antibodies specific to different tags attached to the peptides.

If one of these lines becomes visible, it means the target peptide is present in the sample. The technology can also easily be modified to detect multiple types of peptides released by different types or stages of disease.

 

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