(Source: New Line Cinema)

The particles (brown) are coated with peptides (blue) that are cleaved by enzymes (green) found at the disease site  (Source: Justin H. Lo)
The method amplifies biomarker detection in urine

MIT researchers may have found a new way of amplifying cancer biomarkers earlier through a patient's urine.

The MIT research team, led by Sangeeta Bhatia, has used altered nanoparticles to make the proteins produced by cancerous cells easy to recognize in urine. This could pave the way for earlier detection as well as treatment.

The problem is that cancer cells only create a small amount of these proteins, and they are often too diluted for detection.

This is how it works: nanoparticles are coated in peptides, allowing them to express 10 different peptides. Each peptide is a different size, making them easily seen once they finally exit through the urine.

The peptide-coated nanoparticles interact with proteases within the body, which are enzymes that cleave proteins into tiny pieces. Cancer cells are known to create an abundance of proteases called MMPs, which help the cancer cells move around and spread by cutting through proteins.

The MMPs target the peptide coating on the nanoparticles because peptides are short protein fragments. The nanoparticles then group at the tumor site and push their way through the leaky blood vessels that surround it.

Once the proteases cleave the peptides around the nanoparticles, the peptides are released into the bloodstream and group together in the kidneys. From there, they are released into the patient's urine and are easily seen using mass spectrometry.

This method has already been tested on mice with early stages of colorectal cancer. It accurately showed the early formation of tumors.

Bhatia believes this could one day diagnose cancer earlier than possible today, helping to improve the chances of survival.

Source: MIT News

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