Saturday December 7, 2019

Researchers Develop New Tool That Can Detect Cancer

The technology could be used as a screening tool to help rule out cancer, which could mean fewer unnecessary follow-ups

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Cancer
The devices distinguish cell types with higher specificity than previous methods, thus the researchers hope their work might improve diagnosis, and give Cancer therapies better aim. Pixabay

Researchers from Duke University in the US, have created a new Cancer-Detecting Tool, which uses tiny circuits made up of DNA to identify Cancer cells by the molecular signatures on their surface.

According to the study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the research team fashioned the simple circuits from interacting strands of synthetic DNA that are tens of thousands of times finer than a human hair.

Unlike the circuits in a computer, these circuits work by attaching to the outside of a cell and analysing it for proteins found in greater numbers on some cell types than others.

If a circuit finds its targets, it labels the cell with a tiny light-up tag.

Because the devices distinguish cell types with higher specificity than previous methods, the researchers hope their work might improve diagnosis, and give cancer therapies better aim.

For the findings, the research team designed a DNA circuit that must latch onto that specific combination of proteins on the same cell to work.

“As a result they’re much less likely to flag the wrong cells,” said study researcher John Reif.

Each basic element of their DNA circuit consists of two DNA strands.

Cancer
Researchers from Duke University in the US, have created a new Cancer-Detecting Tool tool, which uses tiny circuits made up of DNA to identify Cancer cells by the molecular signatures on their surface. Pixabay

The first DNA strand folds over and partially pairs up with itself to form a hairpin shape.

One end of each hairpin is bound to a second strand of DNA that acts as a lock and tether, folding in such a way to fit a specific cell surface protein like a puzzle piece.

Together these two strands act to verify that that particular protein is present on the cell surface.

To look for cancer, the circuit components are mixed with a person’s cells in the lab.

If any cells are studded with the right combination of proteins, the complete circuit will attach.

Adding a strand of “initiator” DNA then causes one of the hairpins to open, which in turn triggers another in a chain reaction until the last hairpin in the circuit is opened and the cell lights up.

Cancer
For the findings, the research team designed a DNA circuit that must latch onto that specific combination of proteins on the same cell to work to detect Cancer. Pixabay

Test runs of the device in test tubes in Reif’s lab showed it can be used to detect leukemia cells and to distinguish them from other types of cancer within a matter of hours, just by the strength of their glow.

The devices can be easily reconfigured to detect different cell surface proteins by replacing the tether strands, the researchers said.

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The technology could be used as a screening tool to help rule out cancer, which could mean fewer unnecessary follow-ups, or to develop more targeted cancer treatments with fewer side effects.

In the future, Reif plans for the DNA circuits to release a small molecule that alerts the body’s immune system to attack the cancer cell. (IANS)

Next Story

Genetic Variations Influence Risk of Developing Cancer: Study

Study found that variations in the regions that regulate the expression of oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes affect cancer risk

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Cancer
While minor genetic changes only have a small impact on Cancer risk, the variations analysed in this study are numerous and common in the population. Pixabay

Shedding new light on why some people develop cancer while others do not, a new study has found that a person’s risk of developing cancer is affected by Genetic variations in regions of DNA that do not code for proteins, previously dismissed as “junk DNA”.

This study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, shows that inherited cancer risk is not only affected by mutations in key cancer genes, but that variations in the DNA that controls the expression of these genes can also drive the disease.

The researchers believe that understanding how non-coding DNA affects the development of this disease could one day improve genetic screening for cancer risk.

And in the future, this could lead to new prevention strategies, or help doctors diagnose the disease earlier, when it is more likely to be treated successfully.

“What we found surprised us as it had never been reported before — our results show that small genetic variations work collectively to subtly shift the activity of genes that drive cancer,” said lead researcher of the study John Quackenbush, Professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US.

Genetic
Shedding new light on why some people develop Cancer while others do not, a new study has found that a person’s risk of developing cancer is affected by genetic variations in regions of DNA that do not code for proteins, previously dismissed as “junk DNA”. Pixabay

“We hope that this approach could one day save lives by helping to identify people at risk of cancer, as well as other complex diseases,” Quackenbush said.

The researchers investigated 846 genetic changes within non-coding stretches of DNA, identified by previous studies as affecting cancer risk.

These Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) are particular positions in the human genome where a single letter of the genetic code varies between people.

Unlike mutations in coding DNA, such as BRCA, that are rare but significantly raise a person’s risk of developing cancer, non-coding SNPs are relatively common in the population but only slightly increase cancer risk.

The team analysed whether there was a correlation between the presence of a particular SNP and the expression of particular genes.

In total, they looked at over six million genetic variants across 13 different body tissues.

Genetic
The researchers believe that understanding how non-coding DNA affects the development of this disease could one day improve genetic screening for cancer risk. Pixabay

They found that variations in the regions that regulate the expression of oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes affect cancer risk.

The study also revealed that these cancer-risk SNPs tend to be specifically located in regions that regulate the immune system and tissue-specific processes — highlighting the importance of these cellular processes to the development of cancer.

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“While minor genetic changes only have a small impact on cancer risk, the variations analysed in this study are numerous and common in the population,” said Emily Farthing, senior research information manager at British charity Cancer Research UK. (IANS)