A team of engineers and researchers working at MIT recently developed nanosensors that can profile cancerous tumours. These sensors get activated over distinct places in human body where tumors are usually formed, in short, their resulted aren’t skewed by background noise of your body. The technology will greatly help doctors in building better customized treatments for cancer patients. The same team demonstrated a unique method that used nanoparticles in cancer diagnosis. These nanoparticles are known for carrying short protein segments, peptides, that communicate with enzymes inside a body known as Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs). The MMPs are known for breaking down peptides and proteins that are deeply involved in tumor formation.
The technology mainly includes administration of peptide carrying nanoparticles, once these are ingested the patient’s urine is examined. If the test results in detection of hundreds of cleaved peptides in patient’s urine, you can be assured of high level of MMP levels which means the chances of presence of a cancerous tumor are high. However, the team wanted to go for a technology that could test the features of realized tumors in distinct location. MMPs are usually present in complete human body, therefore, the team needed a way that could activate the nanoparticles in special sites to remove the natural background noise of human body.
According to Ji Ho Park, the associate professor of brain and bioengineering who didn’t participate in the research, says, “It has been challenging to examine tumor-specific protease activities from patients’ biofluids because these proteases are also present in blood and other organs.” As a solution to this problem the team used magnets. Alternating Magnetic Fields (AMFs) are said to be good alternatives for triggering sensors from a distance as magnetic fields are capable of penetrating deep in body without interfering with the regular biological processes. The team coated their peptides inside magnetic nanoparticles that get heated and dissipate in AMFs presence. Park further adds, “The strength of this work is the magnetothermally responsive protease nanosensors with spatiotemporal controllability. With these nanosensors, the MIT researchers could assay protease activities involved more in tumor progression by reducing off-target activation significantly.”
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