Nanotechnology research improves lung cancer detection
20 September 2011
Posted by Michelle Devonshire
Research using nanotechnology has resulted in a new process that could improve the detection of lung cancer in patients.
According to scientists in the US, using blood plasma samples can be used to detect changes signifying the disease is present.
The team from the University of Missouri claims the breakthrough is the first time nanopore technology has been used to determine if people have lung cancer, with micro ribonucleic acid (microRNA) molecules analyzed for any alterations linked with the condition.
A protein-based nanopore was used to identify changes in ionic current found in blood plasma extracts that indicated the presence of microRNA molecules associated with lung cancer.
Li-Qun Gu, University of Missouri Associate Professor of Biological Engineering, explained: "This technology could possibly be used in the future to detect other cancer types as well as other types of diseases with specific DNA or RNA in the blood."
The research was reported in the journal Nature Nanotechnology and the technology developed has been described as "highly sensitive".
Lung cancer is the most common global cause of death from the disease, with more than 155,000 deaths from the strain predicted in the US in 2011.
However, further research has indicated that in certain circumstances, nanoparticles could pose a risk to the human body.
A study by experts from Brown University in the US suggests carbon nanotubes, gold nanowires and other nanomaterials may cause cell damage if they are certain shapes and sizes.
Writing in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, they noted that cells attempt to ingest particles that are too long to be fully subsumed and they can get stuck.
According to the researchers, developing a greater understanding of how cells interact with nanoparticles can not only prevent damage to the body, but also lead to the design of products that can help cells.