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Chemists mimic nature to design better medical tests
Date:2/14/2012

Santa Barbara, Calif. Over their 3.8 billion years of evolution, living organisms have developed countless strategies for monitoring their surroundings. Chemists at UC Santa Barbara and University of Rome Tor Vergata have adapted some of these strategies to improve the performance of DNA detectors. Their findings may aid efforts to build better medical diagnostics, such as improved HIV or cancer tests.

Their research is described in an article published this week in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Nature often serves as a source of inspiration for the development of new technologies. In the field of medical diagnostics, for example, scientists have long taken advantage of the high affinity and specificity of biomolecules such as antibodies and DNA to detect molecular markers in the blood. These molecular markers allow them to monitor health status and to guide treatments for diseases, including HIV, cancer, and diabetes.

Kevin W. Plaxco, a professor of chemistry at UCSB, whose group carried out the research, notes that despite their great attributes, a main limitation of such biosensors is their precision, which is confined to a fixed, well-defined "dynamic range" of target concentrations. Specifically, the useful dynamic range of typical biomolecule binding events spans an 81-fold range of target concentrations

"This fixed dynamic range complicates or even precludes the use of biosensors in many applications," said Plaxco. "To monitor HIV progression and provide the appropriate medication, for example, physicians need to measure the levels of viruses over five orders of magnitude. Likewise, the two orders-of-magnitude range displayed by most biosensors is too broad to precisely monitor the concentrations of the highly toxic drugs used to treat many cancers. Our goal was, therefore, to create sensors with extended (for applications needing a broad dynamic range) or narrowed (for applications needing hi
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Contact: Andrea Estrada
andrea.estrada@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-4620
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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