Researchers from the University of Central Florida are developing a new screening technique that is 300 times more effective than existing methods of detecting a biomarker for diseases like cancer.
Nanoparticles with nickel-rich cores and platinum-rich shells to increase the sensitivity of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) were used by the technique published recently in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
ELISA is an immunological assay test commonly used to measure antibodies, antigens, proteins, and glycoproteins in biological samples, including diagnosis of HIV infection, pregnancy tests, etc.
Upon detecting a biomarker, the test generates a colour output used to quantify its concentration. An intense colour suggests a strong concentration. The tests have to be sensitive to prevent false negatives that could delay treatment or interventions.
The researchers found that by replacing peroxidise (a conventional enzyme used in an ELISA) with nanoparticles, the test turned out to be 300 times more sensitive at detecting carcinoembryonic antigen, a biomarker sometimes used to detect colorectal cancers.
"Such a breakthrough enables highly sensitive detection of cancer biomarkers with the ultimate goal of saving lives through earlier detection of cancers. We hope the technology can be eventually used in clinical diagnostic laboratories in the near future," said Xiaohu Xia, an assistant professor in UCF's Department of Chemistry and co-author of the study.
Though a biomarker for colorectal cancer was used in the study, the technique could also detect biomarkers for other types of cancers and diseases, said the researchers.
Researchers hope to continue to refine the technology and apply it to clinical samples of human patients to study its performance.