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Scientists discover universal detection method: gold nanoparticles identify cancer DNA in just ten minutes

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Author : Jazmyn
Update time : 2024-03-26 10:07:40

The emergence of nanogold immunolabeling technology in 1971 made people see the huge application potential of nano gold as an immune marker. After decades of continuous development, the immunolabeling technology using nanogold as a marker has become mature and has become one of the four major immunolabeling technologies.

Researchers from the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) have discovered a unique nanoscale DNA signature that is common in all cancers. Based on this discovery, researchers have developed a new technology that can quickly and easily detect cancer from any tissue type, such as blood or biopsy, in just 10 minutes.


This research was funded by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and the results were recently published in Nature Communications.

Dr. Abu Sina, AIBN researcher and first author of the paper, said, "Because cancer is an extremely complex and varied disease, it is difficult to find a simple characteristic that is common to all cancers but is the same as and different from healthy cells."
In order to solve this problem, Dr. Sina and others, together with AIBN co-founder Professor Matt Trau and his research group Dr. Laura Carrascosa, started from the physical and chemical characteristics of DNA methylation and worked together on a method called "circulating free DNA" substance.

A press release on the University of Queensland's official website mentioned that, like healthy cells, cancer cells are also in the process of death and renewal. When cancer cells die, they cleave and release materials, including DNA, which then enter the bloodstream.


In fact, cancer cells that break away from tumors and enter the peripheral blood circulation, namely circulating tumor cells (CTCs), are one of the biomarkers of cancer. CTC-based liquid biopsy technology has also been a popular area of tumor research in recent years, especially early diagnosis of cancer. For example, sequencing is used to detect whether free DNA in the blood contains tumor-specific mutations.

"We conducted a lot of research to determine if there were some unique DNA signatures that were only present in cancer and not elsewhere in the body," Dr. Carrascosa said.

Therefore, the research team studied epigenetic patterns in the genomes of cancer cells and healthy cells. To put it simply, they looked for molecular patterns of methyl groups that modify DNA. These methyl groups are important for cell function and are the signals that control which genes are turned on or off at specific points in time.

The methyl groups on the DNA of healthy cells are basically evenly distributed. However, the AIBN research team found that in the genome of cancer cells, methyl groups are missing from most DNA fragments, and there are dense methyl clusters at certain specific positions.

The team found that this unique signature was present in every breast cancer they tested and also in cell-free DNA from other forms of cancer, including prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and lymphoma.


"Virtually every segment of cancerous DNA we detected had this highly predictable pattern," Professor Trau said. "This appears to be a universal feature of all cancers, which was a surprising finding."

The research team also found that in solution, these dense methyl clusters caused the cancer DNA fragments to fold into three-dimensional nanostructures, and these nanostructures like to stick to gold.

Taking advantage of this, the researchers designed an experimental method that uses gold nanoparticles to detect the presence or absence of these three-dimensional nanostructures of cancer DNA. The gold nanoparticles will change color accordingly. If tumor DNA particles come into contact with gold nanoparticles, the solution will turn red.

"It happens in a drop of blood, you can detect it with your eyes, it's that simple," Professor Trau said.

However, this method is currently limited to laboratories. So far, the research team has tested the new technology on 200 different types of human cancer and healthy cell samples. In some cancers, the detection accuracy is as high as 90%.


"It applies to tissue-derived genomic DNA and blood-derived circulating cell-free DNA." Dr. Sina said that this discovery may change the rules of the game in the field of cancer diagnosis. Although it is still in progress, it is a promising start. And it gets better over time.

"Of course, we don't know yet whether it's applicable to all cancer diagnoses, but it looks really interesting because it's a very simple universal marker for cancer, and it's a very accessible, inexpensive technology; no complex laboratory equipment such as DNA sequencing is required," Professor Trau said.


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