Gold nanoparticles against cancer recognize signals from cells

A new technology made of gold nanoparticles can detect cancer extracellular vesicles in a blood sample. A novel blood test that uses such particles to detect cancer identifies signals released by cancer cells. Accordingly, these could lead to an earlier diagnosis and better treatment.

Cancer diagnosis using gold nanoparticles

gold nanoparticles against cancer recognize signals from cancer cells

New research results have shown that the nanotechnology developed by scientists from the University of Queensland can detect and monitor extracellular vesicles (EVs) in the bloodstream. Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) researcher Jing Wang said the discovery could lead to more effective, personalized cancer therapy by allowing oncologists to quickly determine how treatment is progressing.

Vesicles are an exciting next generation of potential biomarkers in the blood. These are primarily nanoparticles that are constantly emitted by health cells and cancer cells. This enables communication from cell to cell. They are like tiny bubbles that carry charges like DNA, proteins and other molecules between cells. This charge reveals a lot about what's going on in the cell. Cancer cells use the gold nanoparticles to manipulate other cells around them. They also manipulate and suppress the immune system in this way.

mrt computer tomography for cancer detection

In collaboration with oncologists Andreas Behren and Professor Jonathan Cebon, the researchers tested the technology on blood samples from patients with melanoma. This was able to prove the presence of cancer-related nanoparticles. As a result, they tracked critical changes during and after treatment. However, scientists find it difficult to distinguish such particles from the others. They emit healthy cells and are therefore more common in the bloodstream.

“The technology combines two completely new approaches in a clinical setting for possible treatment monitoring,” said Dr. Wuethrich. “We used an electrically activated nano-fluidic chip with which we can only detect cancer-emitted nanoparticles.

Medical perspectives

diagnosis of cancer using gold nanoparticles

“We coupled this with a special type of gold nanoparticle that binds to antibodies and adheres to molecules that we only find on the surface of cancer cells.”

The technology of the particles ends up a unique signal when laser light hits them. Medicine can use this to capture an EV fingerprint specific to the patient. With the help of the team, scientists have tested the technology on blood samples from 23 melanoma patients. The new device accurately identified cancer EVs in blood samples and successfully tracked how the cancer EV fingerprint changed in response to therapy for each patient.

“Our technology can detect changes in cancer EV fingerprints so that it can quickly be determined whether therapy is working or whether drug resistance is occurring,” said Ms. Wang. “This could control cancer therapy in real time.”

The research team previously demonstrated that medical professionals can use the gold nanoparticles to detect circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and unique DNA fragments released by cancer cells. In the study, they show that research can also detect these EVs with the help of these nanoparticles. The arsenal for cancer detection is thus expanded by an important new weapon.

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