Test developed to detect early-stage diseases with naked eye

October 28, 2012

Scientists have developed a prototype ultra-sensitive sensor that would enable doctors to detect the early stages of diseases and viruses with the naked eye, according to research published today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The team, from Imperial College London, report that their visual sensor technology is ten times more sensitive than the current gold standard methods for measuring biomarkers. These indicate the onset of diseases such as prostate cancer and infection by viruses including HIV.

The researchers say their sensor would benefit countries where sophisticated detection equipment is scarce, enabling cheaper and simpler detection and treatments for patients.

In the study, the team tested the effectiveness of the sensor by detecting a biomarker called p24 in , which indicates .

Professor Molly Stevens, from the Departments of Materials and at Imperial College London, says:

"It is vital that patients get periodically tested in order to assess the success of retroviral therapies and check for new cases of infection. Unfortunately, the existing gold standard detection methods can be too expensive to be implemented in parts of the world where resources are scarce. Our approach affords for improved sensitivity, does not require sophisticated instrumentation and it is ten times cheaper, which could allow more tests to be performed for better screening of many diseases."

The researchers in today's study also tested samples for the biomarker called (PSA), which is an early indicator for . The team say the sensor can also be reconfigured for other viruses and diseases where the specific is known.

The sensor works by analysing serum, derived from blood, in a disposable container. If the result is positive for p24 or , there is a reaction that generates irregular of nanoparticles, which give off a distinctive blue hue in a solution inside the container. If the results are negative the separate into ball-like shapes, creating a reddish hue. Both reactions can be easily seen by the naked eye.

The team also report that the sensor was so sensitive that it was able to detect minute levels of p24 in samples where patients had low viral loads, which could not be diagnosed using existing tests such as the Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) test and the gold standard nucleic acid based test.

Dr Roberto de la Rica, co-author of the study from the Department of Materials at Imperial College London, adds:

"We have developed a test that we hope will enable previously undetectable HIV infections and indicators of cancer to be picked up, which would mean people could be treated sooner. We also believe that this test could be significantly cheaper to administer, which could pave the way for more widespread use of HIV testing in poorer parts of the world."

The next stage of the research will see the team approaching not-for-profit global health organisations, which could provide strategic direction and funding for manufacturing and distributing the sensor to low income countries.

Explore further: Scientists develop ultra-sensitive test that detects diseases in their earliest stages

Related Stories

Scientists develop ultra-sensitive test that detects diseases in their earliest stages

May 27, 2012
Scientists have developed an ultra-sensitive test that should enable them to detect signs of a disease in its earliest stages, in research published today in the journal Nature Materials.

PSA test for men could get a second life for breast cancer in women

July 13, 2011
The widely known PSA blood test for prostate cancer in men may get a second life as a much-needed new test for breast cancer, the most common form of cancer in women worldwide, scientists are reporting in a new study in the ...

Recommended for you

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

Novel CRISPR-Cas9 screening enables discovery of new targets to aid cancer immunotherapy

July 19, 2017
A novel screening method developed by a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center—using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to test the function of thousands of tumor genes in mice—has ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.