Detecting Cancer Dust/Microvesicles In Blood To Diagnose Brain Cancer Using Novel Nanotechnology and NMR Based Device

Yesterday, I wrote about the new technique of detecting microvesicles or cancer dust in the blood thereby making it easy to monitor and detect brain tumor/glioma. The technique used to detect cancer dust is based on a combination of nanotechnology and a NMR based device.

Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Systems Biology (CSB) have come up with a novel miniature diagnostic platform, microvesicles. Tumor cells shed microvesicles more than normal cells. Detecting these microvesicles in blood using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology forms the basis of the study published in Nature Medicine.

I was curious as to how the technique worked and had to dig up a bit more to find the exact mechanism by which the novel technique aims to make brain tumor visible in a sample of blood.

So, how are microvesicles detected?

From yesterday’s blog,

Research team came up with a new technology,

  • They used nanotechnology to magnetically label microvesicles.
  • Adapted and improved a miniature hand held NMR device.


Let us understand this a little bit more,


Labeling of microvesicles

Two-step labeling procedure for MNP binding onto target proteins on microvesicles (credit: Huilin Shao et al./Nature Medicine)

  • The labeling process of microvesicles is done in two steps:
    • Antibodies bind to circulating microvesicles
    • Magnetic nano particles recognize the antibodies and bind to them


Detecting microvesicles or cancer dust in blood

Microfluidic microvesicle detection system can load and test three samples individually . (Image credit: Huilin Shao et al./Nature Medicine)

  • The detection device is a microfluidic microvesicle system and works by:
    • Routing the fluid against a coil
    • This coil detects magnetic nano particles (MNP)
    • Microvesicles attached to the MNP are isolated and captured

As discussed earlier, this new technology exhibited excellent accuracy and can be done very quickly, providing almost instant results. Click here to read more about the study.

This must be very good news to the brain tumor community, being able to detect and monitor one of the most aggressive tumors is no easy game. The research team at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Systems Biology (CSB) hope to extend the application of the new technique to detecting other cancers as well as infectious diseases too. Let us hope that this device scales up to what it promises!

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