Scientists have developed a revolutionary test: from a simple blood test, it is able to detect cancer cells in just 10 minutes. They have actually identified a tracer common to all cancers: the attraction of their DNA to … the gold!
Researchers at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) have just discovered a common signature to potentially all cancers, which would identify them in a new way. They have revealed that, because of its molecular structure, the DNA of cancer cells is irresistibly bound to … to gold.
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The search for a common signature
"Because cancer is an extremely complicated and variable disease, it has been difficult to find a signature common to all its variants, but different from that of a healthy cell.AIBN researcher Abu Sina said: "To address these challenges, the researchers focused on what is known as free DNA: degraded DNA fragments released into the blood plasma after death." cancer cells.
They analyzed the epigenetic motifs of the genomes of tumor cells and healthy cells; in other words, they examined the configurations of molecules, called methyl, in the DNA of these cells. Methyls play an important role in controlling which genes are active or inactive at a given time. But researchers have noticed a crucial difference between healthy cells and cancer cells.
A strong link with gold
While the former have methylated throughout their genome, in methylated cells, methylates are concentrated only on specific regions. A characteristic they have noticed for different types of cancer. "Practically every piece of cancer DNA we have analyzed has this highly predictable pattern", comments Matt Trau, coauthor of the study published in Communications of nature.
However, these concentrated methyl nuclei can cause fragmentation of fragments of free circulating DNA to adopt a 3D nanostructure that irresistibly attaches itself to gold. On this basis, the researchers developed gold nanoparticles capable of changing color depending on the presence or absence of these characteristic methyls. A quick and effective test whose results are directly visible to the naked eye. According to the researchers, he even showed a 90% reliability rate.
"We do not know yet if it is the Grail in terms of cancer diagnosis", Stresses Trau,"but it is an incredibly simple and universal cancer marker. Furthermore, this technology is quite affordable and inexpensive and does not require complicated laboratory equipment."
The method is not yet perfect, but it is still in its infancy. For now, it does not allow to determine the severity of cancer or to localize the disease. But if researchers are able to improve their reliability, they could replace many expensive or complicated tests in the future.