Finding ways to diagnose cancer earlier could greatly improve the chances of survival for many patients. One way to do this is to look for specific proteins secreted by cancer cells, which circulate in the bloodstream. However, the quantity of these biomarkers is so low that detecting them has proven difficult.
A new technology developed at MIT may help to make biomarker detection much easier. The researchers, led by Sangeeta Bhatia, have developed nanoparticles that can home to a tumor and interact with cancer proteins to produce thousands of biomarkers, which can then be easily detected in the patient’s urine.
These nanoparticles created by MIT engineers can act as synthetic biomarkers for disease. The particles (brown) are coated with peptides (blue) that are cleaved by enzymes (green) found at the disease site. The peptides then accumulate in the urine, where they can be detected using mass spectrometry.
Image: Justin H. Lo