- Nanowire device developed helps detect microscopic levels of cancer markers in the urine
- The device captures extracellular vesicles (EVs) and can screen for the presence of cancer efficiently
- Whole combinations of microRNAs associated with different types of cancers can be detected
A novel nanowire device has been developed to detect microscopic levels of cancer markers in the urine. The device is a non-invasive diagnostic tool, reveals a new study.
Role of Extracellular Vesicle
Cell communication happens through some different mechanisms.
‘Only one milliliter of urine is required to detect more significant number and different types of microRNAs in the urine.’
Extracellular vesicle (EV)
is a less familiar mode of cellular transport. It is usually thought of as small "chunks" of a cell that help circulate throughout the body and delivers messenger cargo to other cells.
EVs have been recognized as crucial mediators of cell-to-cell communication.
Takao Yasui, from Nagoya University, Japan said that EVs, as clinical markers help provide a diagnostic signature for specific diseases.
"The ongoing challenge for physicians in any field is to find a non-invasive diagnostic tool that allows them to monitor their patients on a regular basis - for example, a simple urine test," said Yasui.
MicroRNAs in Urine
EVs were found to harbor microRNAs
. The presence of specific microRNAs in urine can indicate severe conditions like bladder and prostate cancer.
MicroRNAs are short pieces of ribonucleic acid that play diverse roles in normal cellular biology. Though theoretically, it could help physicians in diagnosing cancer diagnoses, there were still many technical hurdles that have to be overcome.
One of the hurdles is that to find a feasible method that can capture EVs in sufficient quantities to analyze them in a routine clinical setting.
"The content of EVs in urine is extremely low, at less than 0.01 percent of the total fluid volume. This is a major barrier to their diagnostic utility," said Yasui.
He said that their solution was to embed zinc oxide nanowires into a functional polymer to create a material that can efficiently capture these vesicles.
Nanowire Device Works Effectively
The findings of this study show that the device is quite efficient and can obtain a collection rate of over 99 percent. This device has surpassed ultracentrifugation and also all the other methods that are currently being used in the field.
The research team tested the device practically by comparing the microRNAs of EVs that were isolated from healthy patients with those isolated from patients who already had bladder, prostate, and other forms of cancer.
Only one milliliter of urine was required in this technique.
The research team found the much more significant number and different types of microRNAs when compared to the standard ultracentrifugation method.
What are Tumor markers?
An ideal tumor marker for cancer is specific to that particular type of cancer that helps in generating positive results. There still ongoing research to identify specific markers for different types of cancers.
Tumor markers are protein substances that are produced by the body or by the tumor itself in response to cancer. These can be detected in higher quantities in the blood, body tissue or urine of the affected individuals.
If the concentration of the markers is high, then there is a need to monitor the patient for tumor. The prerequisite for a tumor marker is that it needs to be specific and not generate false positive results.
The ideal tumor marker (detected by a blood test) for cancer will test positive for that malignancy alone, will help to diagnose cancer at the earliest and will assist in deciding the effectiveness of the treatment.