Ludwig MIT’s Sangeeta Bhatia and her colleagues have developed a prototype diagnostic test for cancer and possibly other diseases that can be easily and inexpensively used and makes its report in under an hour through a color change in urine. She and her colleagues built their technology around gold nanoclusters (a.k.a. AuNCs) that are small enough to accumulate in tumors, slip through the kidneys’ filtration systems and be cleared via urine. They then linked these AuNCs to a large carrier protein using another strip of protein that is specifically snipped by an enzyme known as MMP9. Colon tumors express high levels of MMP9, so when the nanoparticles made their way into such tumors in mice, they were freed of their protein burden, set adrift in the blood, filtered out through the kidneys and expunged in urine. Subjected to the right chemicals, the AuNCs turn blue, enabling the detection of colon tumors with a simple urine test. Trials in mice with and without colon tumors showed the detectors to be accurate, quick to give results and nontoxic. The researchers hope to use modified versions of the nanosensors to detect other diseases as well. A report of the study appeared in a September paper in Nature Nanotechnology.
This article appeared in the November 2019 issue of Ludwig Link. Click here to download a PDF (1 MB).