New sensor chip to detect prostate cancer early

LONDON (TIP): Researchers have developed a smart sensor chip that can detect prostate cancer more accurately and efficiently than current tests which rely heavily on antibodies.

The sensor chip, able to pick up on subtle differences in glycoprotein molecules, will help improve the process of early stage prostate cancer diagnosis, researchers said.

Glycoprotein molecules play an essential role in our immune response, because of which they are useful clinical biomarkers for detecting prostate cancer and other diseases.

The team of chemical engineers and chemists at the University of Birmingham, created a sensor chip with synthetic receptors along a 2D surface to identify specific, targeted glycoprotein molecules that are differentiated by their modified carbohydrate chains.

“There are two key benefits here. Crucially for the patient, it gives a much more accurate reading and reduces the number of false positive results,” said Paula M Mendes, professor of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology at the University of Birmingham.

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“Furthermore, our technology is simple to produce and store, so could feasibly be kept on the shelf of doctors’ surgery anywhere in the world. It can also be recycled for multiple uses without losing accuracy,” she said.

The findings show how the rate of false readings that come with antibody based diagnosis can be reduced by the new technology that focuses on the carbohydrate part of the molecule.

The complex sugar structure in glycoprotein can be subtly different between samples from healthy and diseased patients.

In order to achieve more accurate readings, the team wanted to identify the presence of disease by detecting a particular glycoprotein which has specific sugars in a specific location in the molecule.

“Biomarkers such as glycoproteins are essential in diagnostics as they do not rely on symptoms perceived by the patient, which can be ambiguous or may not appear immediately,” Mendes said.

“However, the changes in the biomarkers can be incredibly small and specific and so we need technology that can discriminate between these subtle differences -where antibodies are not able to,” Mendes said.

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