Tue, Feb 17, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Nanogold bio-sensor may allow people to detect cancer through at-home test

TUMOR DETECTION Tiny flecks of gold could combine with substances in the body to form a solution that would change color in the presence of cancer cells

By Meggie Lu  /  STAFF REPORTER

People may soon be able to detect cancer at home using a simple kit that employs a gold nano-particle bio-sensing method, National Chia Tung University researchers said yesterday.

“Gold nano-particles [nanogold] are a substance that has been made since ancient times,” said Lin Chih-sheng (林志生), a professor at the university’s Institute of Molecular Medicine and Bioengineering.

“Suspended in buffer fluids, the minuscule particles of gold appear bright red,” Lin said, adding that nanogold could be used as a bio-sensor because it creates a solution when the particles are laden with other substances that changes color upon reaction with certain target bio-substances.

“For example, nanogold has been used in pregnancy test kits,” Lin said.

Last year, Lin and his students received the silver medal for the Industrial Development Bureau’s “2008 Crazy Idea King of Application — Biotechnology Research and Development Creative Application Competition” for developing nanogold into a detector capable of gauging matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) abnormality in blood. The team’s paper has been accepted by several international journals, he said.

“Preliminary analysis has shown that MMPs, a protein, is closely related to tumor cell migration and invasion,” Lin said.

By definition, any tumor with self-limited growth is benign, whereas a tumor that transfers or migrates to other parts of the body is called cancer, Lin said.

“When coated with gelatin, gold nano-particles are separate in the buffer solution and appear red,” Lin’s team found.

“However, when gelatin-coated gold nano-particles encounter MMPs in the solution, the MMPs cut through the gelatin, which in turn exposes the nanogold so that the particles aggregate into bigger clusters and the solution turns a blue color,” he said.

Currently, MMP analysis in blood requires a lab zymography (usually in hospitals), which is complex and time-consuming, Lin said. If more studies can prove that MMPs indeed are related to tumor cell migration, his MMP bio-sensor could be developed into a simple kit to detect cancer.

“With a small drop of blood, people at risk will be able to do the test at home,” he said.

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