Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Scientists create 10-minute test that can detect cancer anywhere in the body

The quick test would be a breakthrough in cancer treatment.

Adding healthy DNA to the pink water full of gold particles turns it blue, but when cancerous DNA is added, the water remains pink (University of Queensland).
  • Australian researchers find 3D nanostructures that are unique to cancer cells.
  • These markers can be identified using technology that may be available on cell phones.
  • Human clinical trials are next for the team.

Australian researchers claim in a new study that they developed a 10-minute test that's capable of finding cancer cells at any location in the body. If further testing achieves the same results, this accomplishment could be a real breakthrough in fighting cancer.

The potential for quick diagnoses could help detect and treat cancer early, potentially helping the outcomes for millions of people. The test works by looking for a unique DNA nanostructure that seems to be common to all types cancers. What's especially remarkable is that the variability of cancers makes finding one simple signature shared by them all very complicated.

The study carried out by researchers Dr Abu Sina, Dr Laura Carrascosa and Professor Matt Trau from the University of Queensland, looked for common markers in cancers that would be different from healthy cells.

"This unique nano-scaled DNA signature appeared in every type of breast cancer we examined, and in other forms of cancer including prostate, colorectal and lymphoma," said Dr. Sina. "The levels and patterns of tiny molecules called methyl groups that decorate DNA are altered dramatically by cancer – these methyl groups are key for cells to control which genes are turned on and off."

Professor Matt Trau, Dr Abu Sina and Dr Laura Carrascosa.

Credit: University of Queensland.

Dr. Carrascosa explained that the team made a tool that can look at what changes happen over the entire genome level of cells. In particular, what they noticed is that methyl groups in a healthy cell can be found across the whole genome while in cancer cells the genomes "are essentially barren except for intense clusters of methyl groups at very specific locations."

The team found that when clusters of methyl groups are placed in a solution, the cancer DNA fragments folded into unusual three-dimensional nanostructures. What's more - these could be made to separate if stuck to gold and other solid surfaces. This breakthrough led to the development of a test using gold nanoparticles that can change color to show if the cancer DNA is present.

Dr. Tau from the team said "this led to the creation of inexpensive and portable detection devices that could eventually be used as a diagnostic tool, possibly with a mobile phone."

This tech has proven to be 90% accurate when used on a group that included 200 human cancer samples and normal DNA. The diseases detected included breast, prostate, bowel and lymphoma cancers.

The researchers are urging caution, saying they don't know yet if what they created is "the holy grail for all cancer diagnostics." Other scientists have also expressed some skepticism, pointing to the fact this type of testing can produce false positives, leading to more expensive testing. The test is also unable to show how severe the extent of the disease is.

Despite the reservations and competitors, like a recent initiative from Johns Hopkins University to create a quick $500 blood test, the Australian researchers are optimistic that their find of "an incredibly simple universal marker of cancer" can result in "an accessible and inexpensive technology that doesn't require complicated lab-based equipment like DNA sequencing," Professor Trau shared.

Such technology could be particularly useful in rural or underdeveloped areas, where additional medical resources are not available. It can also be useful in monitoring for re-appearances of cancers.

Clinical trials on humans are next for the team.

Check out their new study in Nature Communications magazine.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
Keep reading Show less

CRISPR-edited babies born in China may have enhanced brain functions

The brains of two genetically edited babies born last year in China might have enhanced memory and cognition, but that doesn't mean the scientific community is pleased.

YouTube
Surprising Science
  • In November, Chinese scientist He Jiankui reported that he'd used the CRISPR tool to edit the embryos of two girls.
  • He deleted a gene called CCR5, which allows humans to contract HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.
  • In addition to blocking AIDS, deleting this gene might also have positive effects on memory and cognition. Still, virtually all scientists say we're not ready to use gene-editing technology on babies.
Keep reading Show less

Dinosaur bone? Meteorite? These men's wedding bands are a real break from boredom.

Manly Bands wanted to improve on mens' wedding bands. Mission accomplished.

Sex & Relationships
  • Manly Bands was founded in 2016 to provide better options and customer service in men's wedding bands.
  • Unique materials include antler, dinosaur bones, meteorite, tungsten, and whiskey barrels.
  • The company donates a portion of profits to charity every month.
Keep reading Show less

What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.

Could this former river island in the Indus have inspired Tolkien to create Cair Andros, the ship-shaped island in the Anduin river?

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
  • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
Keep reading Show less
Surprising Science

Giant whale sharks have teeth on their eyeballs

The ocean's largest shark relies on vision more than previously believed.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast