A New Method for Accurately Diagnosing Diseases Using a Simple Blood Test


On Aarhus Universityscientists are developing new approaches to detect significant proteins in, for example, blood samples.

Jørgen Kjems and collaborators have achieved a remarkable breakthrough in developing tiny nano-sized pores that could contribute to the better possibility of, among other things, detecting disease at an early stage. Image Credits. ACS Nano 2023, 17, 10, 9167-9177

By utilizing nanopores and tiny nanobodies, they have determined markers that are indicators of COVID-19 and breast cancer with impressive sensitivity and accuracy. With the availability of this technology, in the future it may be possible to make a quick and precise diagnosis of a disease using a simple blood test. This breakthrough can take us one step further to improve healthcare.

In partnership with the University of Groningen, Professor Jørgen Kjems and his research group at Aarhus University have obtained a remarkable breakthrough with tiny nano-sized pores that can create better possibilities, among other things, of detecting disease at an early stage.

Their study was recently reported in a scientific journal ACS nano, featuring a new innovative method for identifying specific proteins in complex biological fluids, such as blood, without having to chemically label the proteins. This study is considered an important milestone in nanopore technology and could also revolutionize medical diagnostics.

Nanopores are tiny channels that form in materials that can be used as sensors. The scientists, led by Jørgen Kjems and Giovanni Maglia (Groningen Univ.), have taken a step forward by producing a unique type of nanopore known as ClyA with scanning molecules, known as nanobodies, attached to them.

Such nanobodies, derived from antibodies, have the potential to identify a variety of proteins with surprising precision. In this study, scientists fix the nanobodies to ClyA with the help of a DNA adapter. By leveraging a series of nanobodies, they were able to fabricate several different nanopore sensors, which can detect a range of proteins of different sizes.

The research group fabricated nanopores with specific, repaired nanobodies, which have the potential to detect the Spike protein from SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and a protein marker for breast cancer known as urokinase-type plasminogen activator (UPA), respectively.

By measuring the variations in electric current caused by the presence of these proteins, researchers can find and pinpoint separate proteins and even identify their concentrations.

What makes this discovery so extraordinary is that the nanopores remain extremely sensitive and precise even when tested with complex samples such as blood.

Even though nanopores are invisible to the naked eye, the importance of this research is palpable. Current technology allows nanopore combinations to become portable devices that can potentially exploit the ability of nanopores to scan liquids for specific molecules.

Therefore, it has the potential to envision a future where patients can quickly and precisely detect diseases such as infectious diseases or cancer with a simple blood test. This can lead to earlier intervention, better treatment outcomes and overall improvement in healthcare.

Although additional study and validation is needed before this technology becomes widely available, this partnership between the two universities takes us one step further from this reality. This discovery exemplifies the power of scientific collaboration and innovation in transforming healthcare.

Journal Reference

Zhang, X., et al. (2023) Protein Specific Detection by Nanobody Functioning Nanopore Sensors. ACS nano.



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