Posted: January 11, 2008

Scientists invent nanotechnology device for disease biomarker discovery

(Nanowerk News) Scientists at George Mason University's Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine have invented an innovative nanotechnology tool that may lead to a dramatic improvement in treatment results for patients diagnosed with cancer or other diseases.
The novel diagnostic tool is uniquely suited for the discovery of new protein biomarkers in the blood that provide sensitive and specific disease detection at the earliest stage when treatment is most effective.
The technology was introduced earlier this year at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting. A complete description appears in the current issue of Nano Letters, an international publication of the American Chemical Society, and online at
CAPMM scientists have developed smart hydrogel nanoparticles that mix with a patient s blood sample to instantly soak up protein biomarkers and protect them from degradation when they are extracted for analysis. According to the scientists, this process is a breakthrough in biomarker discovery and analysis because it immediately preserves, protects and stabilizes the molecules -- something no other technology has been shown to do.
This tiny particle is like a nanosized vacuum cleaner that sucks the molecules out of the blood and freezes them in place for further analysis, explains Lance Liotta, center co-director.
Scientists in the center currently are applying the new process to cancer, infectious diseases, Alzheimer s disease, schizophrenia and cardiovascular disease, but they say the nanoparticle has other applications, as well.
The nanoparticle has the unique attribute of a two- to three-dimensional separation system in one particle and could be used for other applications, such as environmental remediation and rapid blood dialysis for transplant patients, says Alessandra Luchini, lead author on the Nano Letters paper.
According to Emanuel Petricoin III, CAPMM co-director, the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute are making a substantial financial investment in biomarker discovery and methods for sample collection and handling. A major obstacle in the research efforts is the rapid degradation of biomarkers once the blood is removed from the patient.
We believe we have developed one of the first practical tools to directly address several of the practical needs of the biomarker community at once, Petricoin says.
About George Mason University
George Mason University, located in the heart of Northern Virginia s technology corridor near Washington, D.C., is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with national distinction in a range of academic fields. With strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering, information technology, biotechnology and health care, Mason prepares its students to succeed in the work force and meet the needs of the region and the world. Mason professors conduct groundbreaking research in areas such as cancer, climate change, information technology and the biosciences, and Mason s Center for the Arts brings world-renowned artists, musicians and actors to its stage. Its School of Law is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top 35 law schools in the United States.
Source: George Mason University
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