Simple test produces a color change in urine to signal tumor growth in mice
A simple and sensitive urine test developed by Imperial and MIT engineers has produced a color change in urine to signal growing tumors in mice.
Tools that detect cancer in its early stages can increase patient survival and quality of life. However, cancer screening approaches often call for expensive equipment and trips to the clinic, which may not be feasible in rural or developing areas with little medical infrastructure. The emerging field of point-of-care diagnostics is therefore working on cheaper, faster, and easier-to-use tests.
An international pair of engineering labs have now developed a tool that changes the color of mouse urine when colon cancer is present. The findings from testing the fast, non-invasive cancer test are published today in Nature Nanotechnology.
The early-stage technology, developed by teams led by Imperial’s Professor Molly Stevens and MIT professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Sangeeta Bhatia, works by injecting nanosensors into mice, which are cut up by enzymes released by the tumor, known as proteases.
When the nanosensors are broken up by proteases, they pass through the kidney, and can be seen with the naked eye after a urine test that produces a blue color change.
The researchers applied this technology to mice with colon cancer, and found that urine from tumor-bearing mice becomes bright blue, relative to test samples taken from healthy mice.
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