Stanford chemists find new ultra-sensitive test for HIV, cancer

Stanford chemists find new ultra-sensitive test for HIV, cancer


Stanford scientists designed a new ultra-sensitive test to identify diseases including HIV and cancer, which is expected to prove 10,000 times more powerful than present diagnostic tools.

When a disease, whether it’s a virus (such as HIV) or cancer begins to grow in your body, the immune system works by releasing antibodies. Taking these antibodies or associated biomarkers out of your blood is one method through which scientists deduce the existence of an illness.

This consists of developing a molecule to which the biomarker will bind itself and which is decked up with an identifying “flag”. With the help of a chain of specialized chemical reactions defined as immunoassay, scientists can separate that particular flag, including the biomarker attached to it, in order to derive an alternate measurement of the disease.

The novel method, developed by Carolyn Bertozzi in her lab, who’s a lecturer at Stanford University in the US, expands this common procedure using the DNA screening technology. She substituted the standard flag with a tiny DNA strand, which can then be extracted out of the sample with the help of DNA isolation technologies that are far more sensitive than those possible for long-established antibody discoveries.

Carolyn and her team used the signature DNA flag to put their technique to test against four commercially accessible tests approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a biomarker for thyroid cancer. It surpassed the understanding of all of them, by at least 800 times and up to 10,000 times, according to scientists.

It is by spotting the disease biomarkers at lower concentrations that experts could theoretically catch diseases much earlier in their development stage. According to Robinson, the thyroid cancer test has in the past been a quite taxing immunoassay, as it leads to the development of many false positives as well as false negatives, so it was not clear whether their test would have any advantage or not.

A medical trial in progress with collaboration from the Alameda County Public Health Laboratory will help assess the method as a screening device for HIV, researchers mentioned. Early detection of symptoms and the virus treatment can guarantee to a certain extent that its effects on the person are reduced and that its chances of transmission to others are also minimized.

Cheng-ting Tsai, a graduate student in Bertozzi’s group, noted that unlike several new diagnostic techniques, this test is carried out on already existing machines with which most medical labs are familiar.

The study was published in the journal called ACS Central Science.