More Reliable Prostate Cancer Diagnoses Provided by Sensor Chip

PROSTATE cancer (PrC) diagnosis may become more efficient and reliable thanks to a new sensor chip, according to recent study data.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK, and its findings show that the new device could decrease the frequency of false readings that occur with traditional diagnosis methods.

Study author Prof Paula Mendes, School of Chemical Engineering, University of Birmingham, said that there are two crucial benefits to the sensor chip: “Crucially for the patient, it gives a much more accurate reading and reduces the number of false-positive results. Furthermore, our technology is simple to produce and store, so could feasibly be kept on the shelf of a doctors’ surgery anywhere in the world. It can also be recycled for multiple uses without losing accuracy.”

PrC is usually diagnosed by tests relying on antibodies that are expensive to make and vulnerable to degeneration incurred by environmental changes. Significantly, however, they are known to produce false-positive readings at a high rate. The researchers believe that their new sensor chip will boost PrC diagnosis by avoiding these limitations.

The device works by identifying specific proteins bonded to carbohydrate chains known as glycoprotein molecules. Previous techniques for detecting glycoproteins have focussed on the protein of the molecule; however, this does not always change when the body is affected by disease. Conversely, the new chip is designed to focus on the carbohydrate part of the molecule that is subtly different in healthy and diseased patients.

The sensor chip has nano-cavities on its surface that fit the shape of the specific glycoprotein associated with PrC. These nano-cavities are made with a cast, constructed by binding a custom-designed molecule to both a gold surface and the PrC glycoprotein. The end of the custom-designed molecule that reacts with the glycoprotein contains a boron group. When these boron bonds are broken, a perfect cast is left behind.

“It is essentially a lock, and the only key that will fit is the specific PrC glycoprotein that we are looking for. Other glycoproteins might be the right size, but they will not be able to bind to the very specific arrangement of boron groups,” explained Prof Mendes.

The researchers hope that further investment and collaboration with commercial partners may result in this novel technology becoming universally accessible and adpted for use in the treatment of additional conditions.

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