According to researchers, breakthrough in nanotechnology could increase the sensitivity of a laboratory test.
The increased performance could greatly improve the early detection of cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other disorders by allowing doctors to detect far lower concentrations of telltale markers than was previously practical.
The breakthrough involves a common biological test called an immunoassay, which mimics the action of the immune system to detect the presence of biomarkers - the chemicals associated with diseases. When biomarkers are present in samples, such as those taken from humans, the immunoassay test produces a fluorescent glow (light) that can be measured in a laboratory. The greater the glow, the more of the biomarker is present. However, if the amount of biomarker is too small, the fluorescent light is too faint to be detected, setting the limit of detection. A major goal in immunoassay research is to improve the detection limit.
The Princeton researchers tackled this limitation by using nanotechnology to greatly amplify the faint fluorescence from a sample.