Nanotech sensor detects toxins in living cells

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. scientists have developed a tiny sensor that can detect small amounts of cancer-causing toxins or trace the effectiveness of cancer drugs inside living cells.

The finding, reported on Sunday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, offers a new tool for tracking specific chemicals in the body.

“We made a very small nanosensor that can detect cancer-causing molecules or important therapeutic drugs inside of a single living cell,” said Michael Strano of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, who worked on the study.

“It’s much smaller than a living cell in your body,” Strano said in a telephone interview. “It’s so small it can be placed into environments that aren’t accessible with larger sensors.”

Strano said the sensors are made up of thin filaments of carbon molecules known as carbon nanotubes.

Several teams are using nanomaterials — thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair — to develop new ways to deliver drugs in the body or improve diagnosis of disease.

For its sensors, Strano’s team wrapped carefully shaped carbon nanotubes with DNA, which offers a binding site for DNA-damaging agents inside cells.

The sensors give off a fluorescent light that can be detected in the near-infrared light spectrum. Because human tissues do not light up in this spectrum, the nanotubes stand out.

Strano said the light signal changes when the sensors interact with DNA inside cells. These changes can help them identify specific molecules.

“It’s a way of fingerprinting chemistry,” Strano said.

Because the sensors are coated in DNA, Strano said they can be safely injected into living cells.

“Eventually the cell eats the protein off the coating and it essentially spits it out,” he said.

He said the most immediate use of the technology will be as a very powerful tool for scientists to study the effects of very small amounts of a chemical.

But it could eventually be used as a new way to image the human body.

“It’s a new tool. There is nothing else like it.”

(Editing by Will Dunham and Todd Eastham)


Related Posts:

By Michael Kahn LONDON (Reuters) - More testing and regulation of nanomaterials used in an increasingly number of everyday products is urgently needed, experts said on Wednesday. “…having analyzed the potential health and environmental impacts which flow from the properties of nanomaterials, we concluded that there is a plausible case for concern about some (but not all)

Full Post: Urgent regulation needed for nanomaterials: experts

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Researchers in Australia have designed a drug which appears effective in treating arthritis in mice, and they hope it can be used to treat diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus in people. In an article published in Immunology and Cell Biology, the scientists said they zeroed in on a certain human receptor,

Full Post: New inhibitor drug seen for arthritis, lupus

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new type of imaging compound can literally light up spreading cancer cells and may offer a way to track the deadly spread of the disease, Japanese and U.S. researchers reported on Sunday. They used the new compound to monitor the spread of breast and ovarian cancer cells in living mice, using a

Full Post: Compound lights up spreading cancer cells

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. researchers have found a way to switch on a cell-killing protein in the body, a finding that could lead to new ways to treat diseases like cancer in which cells grow out of control. The body naturally activates this protein, called BAX, to kill off unwanted or defective cells in a process

Full Post: Researchers find trigger for killer protein

Basal cell carcinoma is a skin cancer that grows in areas which receives a lot of sun rays. It is the least risky type of skin cancer as compared to the other types. If it is detected early, it can be cured. This skin cancer doesn’t reach to other parts of the body, but may

Full Post: Basal Cell Carcinoma In Men

Site Navigation

Most Read