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Tenfold boost in ability to pinpoint proteins in cancer cells
Date:3/19/2013

Better diagnosis and treatment of cancer could hinge on the ability to better understand a single cell at its molecular level. New research offers a more comprehensive way of analyzing one cell's unique behavior, using an array of colors to show patterns that could indicate why a cell will or won't become cancerous.

A University of Washington team has developed a new method for color-coding cells that allows them to illuminate 100 biomarkers, a ten-time increase from the current research standard, to help analyze individual cells from cultures or tissue biopsies. The work is published this week (March 19) in Nature Communications.

"Discovering this process is an unprecedented breakthrough for the field," said corresponding author Xiaohu Gao, a UW associate professor of bioengineering. "This technology opens up exciting opportunities for single-cell analysis and clinical diagnosis."

The research builds on current methods that use a smaller array of colors to point out a cell's biomarkers characteristics that indicate a special, and potentially abnormal or diseased, cell. Ideally, scientists would be able to test for a large number of biomarkers, then rely on the patterns that emerge from those tests to understand a cell's properties.

The UW research team has created a cycle process that allows scientists to test for up to 100 biomarkers in a single cell. Before, researchers could only test for 10 at a time.

The analysis uses quantum dots, which are fluorescent balls of semiconductor material. Quantum dots are the smaller version of the material found in many electronics, including smartphones and radios. These quantum dots are between 2 and 6 nanometers in diameter, and they vary on the color they emit depending on their size.

Cyclical testing hasn't been done before, though many quantum dot papers have tried to expand the number of biomarkers tested for in a single cell. This method essentially reuses the
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Contact: Michelle Ma
mcma@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

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