Scientists detect cancer in mice with simple urine test

Testing for cancer and other non-infectious diseases may become a lot easier. A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new type of testing that can detect cancer and other illnesses by injecting nanoparticles to find affected tissue, and then releasing a biomarker that is carried in urine. Within minutes of the injection, peeing on paper strips can determine the diagnosis.

Reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the nanoparticles mix with proteins found in tumors. These proteins produce hundreds of synthetic biomarkers easily detectable in urine. One such protein is matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which play a role in the migration of tumor cells.

To target MMPs, the researchers created nanoparticles coated with short protein fragments that MMPs are attracted to.  So when these nanoparticles collect at a tumor site, the MMPs migrate toward them and release peptide fragments that are filtered through the kidneys and out into urine. Using paper strips that contain antibodies for capturing peptides, a line clearly appears on the strip reflecting which peptides are present. This technology is similar to that of a home pregnancy test.

A group of mice were tested using this approach and the strips successfully showed which mice had tumors and blood clots.

The researchers developed this technology with underdeveloped countries in mind, where medical testing is limited.

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