GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- University of Florida chemists are the first to use a new tool to identify the molecular signatures of serious diseases -- without any previous knowledge of what these microscopic signatures or biomarkers should look like.
Reported this month in the online edition of the Journal of Proteome Research, the advance could one day lead to earlier detection and improved treatment of some types of cancer as well as other diseases.
With many diseases, the problem has been that we really dont know what to look for, said Weihong Tan, a professor of chemistry and the lead author of the paper. What weve done is create a technique to identify the biomarkers despite that limitation.
Doctors often diagnose cancer and other diseases based on the appearance of a tumor or a patients symptoms. While such traditional methods can be effective, they sometimes identify a disease only after it is established. For example, clinicians may get tipped off to the presence of lung cancer which kills more people than any other type of cancer based on visible images of a tumor that appear on radiological exams of a patients lungs.
Because earlier detection typically improves outcomes, doctors would like to spot disease at the molecular level, before it grows or spreads and manifests itself in more obvious and harmful ways. Given that diseased cells molecular structures differ from those of healthy ones, that approach should be possible, and researchers have had some success finding such biomarkers using antibodies, Tan said. But despite years of research, biomarkers for most diseases remain elusive or unreliable, he said.
His group turned to aptamers, single-strand chains of DNA or RNA that recognize and bind to target protein molecules, as a new tool. His paper reports the first-ever successful use of the aptamers to discover a molecular biomarker in this case, one for leukemia.
Tan said his group used cell-SELEX,
|Contact: Weihong Tan|
University of Florida