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Technology and Health News > Tuesday, June-30-2009

Nano-spheres for the diagnosis of cancer

Italian researcher Alessandra Luchini wins the first edition of "The Prize Award” with a paper of a system to identify those molecules that signal the presence of a tumor (tumor markers) that are beyond the traditional methods of investigation.

To do this requires making a hydrogel containing certain microscopic nano-spheres that once inserted in the samples of blood taken for analysis diagnostic trap some markers and protect them from deterioration.

"These nano-spheres, made of the same plastic as hydrated soft contact lenses are equipped with special molecules that, once in the blood, snap-specific tumor markers and incorporate them. In this way, they protect them from enzymes that would otherwise deteriorate them. Usually blood tests fail to identify precisely because these markers are destroyed prematurely, " says researcher Alessandra Luchini.

"The beauty of this system," says the researcher, "is that it does not need very sophisticated tools, which is simple and economical: with one hundred U.S. dollars we can make nano-spheres for more than two hundred patients." The new method is not going to replace the standard, but acts at a stage prior to analysis by providing a better quality.

The cancer diagnosis is not the only area of application of this new technology, as the scientist says: "We are currently working on a system for anti-doping tests and there are plans to use this system to filter polluted water."

Alessandra Luchini will be awarded with the prize in Milan; the same opportunity will be presented to public projects of the best researchers who participated in the contest.

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