February 16, 2019

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08 December 2018, 07:35 | Randall Craig

Scientists develop 'holy grail' blood test that detects cancer in 10 minutes

Prostate cancer cells. Researchers in Australia say that they have developed a new test for cancer that can provide an accurate detection in 10 minutes

In a major breakthrough, scientists from the University of Queensland in Australia have claimed success in developing a simple a 10-minute test to detect all types of cancer.

Healthy cells function properly by patterning their DNA with methyl molecules groups working like volume controls to silence genes not needed and turning up ones that are; cancer cells hijack this patterning so that only genes helping them to grow are switched on. These 3D nanostructures could then be separated when they stick to solid surfaces, like gold. Sign up today to get biotech news and updates delivered to your inbox and read on the go.

However, the current study found that on the cancer cell genome, the methyl groups instead form intense clusters at very specific sites.

Relatively affordable and simple testing was made possible due to the team's discovery of cancer DNA and normal DNA sticking to metal surfaces in very different ways, allowing development of a test which can distinguish between healthy cells and those that are cancerous, even from tiny traces of DNA that find their way into the bloodstream.

"Using. a high-resolution microscope, we saw that cancerous DNA fragments folded into three-dimensional structures in water".

The types of cancers we tested included breast, prostate, bowel and lymphoma.

The blood test detected cancer with 90 percent accuracy in the University of Queensland's tests of different human cancers and healthy cells and can be done in only 10 minutes. The group, which discovered a unique DNA nanostructure that is present in various types of cancer, published their research in Nature Communications and a press release. After many studies and a lot of work, scientists have come up with a universal cancer test.

Mr Trau of Queensland University acknowledged yesterday that "we certainly don't know yet whether it's the holy grail for all cancer diagnostics".

Professor Trau said the next stage of the research was to conduct more clinical testing. A test that detects one cancer may not work on another.

Although the test is still in development, it uses a radically new approach to the detection of cancer, which can make screening for cancer a simple procedure.

The gold nanoparticles were contained in a solution which turned from a reddish colour to blue if healthy cells were detected but stayed the same colour in the presence of cancer cells. As of 2018, there are more than 200 types of cancer.

"But it looks really interesting as an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer, and as a very accessible and low-priced technology that does not require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing".

"It's just a simple blood test that you can see with a naked eye", said Professor Trau.

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