Blood test could use shapes to spot cancer

Blood test could use shapes to spot cancer
June 22 09:03 2016 Print This Article

(FUTURITY) – A new way to detect antibodies in blood opens the door to developing simple diagnostic tests for diseases for which no microbial cause is known, including autoimmune diseases and cancer.

The results are the first evidence that it is possible to develop blood tests for any infectious disease by screening random libraries of non-biological molecular shapes.

“This ‘needle-in-a-molecular haystack’ approach is a new way to develop diagnostic assays,” says senior author Donald S. Burke, dean of the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh.

“The method does not rely on starting with known viral components. This is important because there are conditions for which there isn’t a known antigen, such as newly emerged epidemics, autoimmune diseases, or even responses to traumatic injury.”

When a person’s immune system is faced with an antigen or foreign invader, such as an infectious disease, or even an injury with tissue damage, it responds by producing antibodies. Like puzzle pieces, specific parts of the surface of these antibodies fit to the shape of the molecules on the invader or the damaged tissue.

As reported in the Journal of Immunological Methods, the new technique, which synthesizes random molecular shapes called “peptoids” hooked onto microscopic plastic beads, can produce millions of molecular shapes. The peptoids are not organic, but if they match to the corresponding shape on an antibody, that antibody will connect to them, allowing the scientist to pull out that bead and examine that peptoid and its corresponding antibody.

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