(Image source from: Yahoo News India)
The scientists have developed a quick test that can detect all types of cancer from blood or biopsy tissues within minutes.
The test, developed by scientific researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia, including one of Indian-origin, who have discovered a unique DNA nanostructure that seems to be usual to all cancers.
Cancer is an exceedingly complex and variable disease and different types of cancer have different signatures.
It had been hard to breakthrough a simple signature that was clear from healthy cells and common to all cancers.
"This unique nano-scaled DNA signature appeared in every type of breast cancer we examined, and in other forms of cancer including prostate, colorectal and lymphoma," said Abu Sina, from the University of Queensland.
"The levels and patterns of tiny molecules called methyl groups that decorate DNA are altered dramatically by cancer - these methyl groups are key for cells to control which genes are turned on and off," said Sina.
A tool has been developed by Researchers that could look at these pattern changes at the whole genome level within minutes.
"In healthy cells, these methyl groups are spread out across the genome, but the genomes of cancer cells are essentially barren except for intense clusters of methyl groups at very specific locations," Laura Carrascosa, a professor at the University of Queensland.
The team discovered that intense clusters of methyl groups placed in a solution caused cancer DNA fragments to fold into unique three-dimensional nanostructures that could easily be separated by sticking to solid surfaces such as gold.
"We designed a simple test using gold nanoparticles that instantly change color to determine if the 3D nanostructures of cancer DNA are present," said Matt Trau, a professor a University of Queensland.
He said cancer cells released their DNA into blood plasma when they died.
"So we were very excited about an easy way of catching these circulating free cancer DNA signatures in blood," he said.
Discovering that cancerous DNA molecules formed entirely different 3D nanostructures from normal circulating DNA was a discovery that has enabled an entirely new approach to detect cancer non-invasively in any tissue type as well as blood.
"This led to the creation of inexpensive and portable detection devices that could eventually be used as a diagnostic tool, possibly with a mobile phone," said Trau.
The new technology has proved to be up to 90 percent precise in tests including 200 human cancer samples and normal DNA.
By Sowmya Sangam